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The Railyard Murders: A FAH Mystery

Updated: Nov 8

#FAHnArtChallenge: A FAHn Novel in 31 Days

GO TO Chapter 13

It's time for another quickly written FAHn fiction novel! I can't write every single day because I'm leaving the country on October 22nd to fly to the UK to see FAH!! So, I've decided to double up on some words this year. I've also decided not to worry about the length of my chapters - no holding me back, baby! I'm just writing and creating a story - I hope it works! Last year, I started with Arms, but this year it's Foil's turn to be out there front and center.

So, like last year, I will be putting the daily word(s) in bold and (at this point) will be publishing either every other day or every day, depending on what I'm writing. I'll finish up on October 31st, but will most probably have already finished the novel by the time I fly - or at least that's the hope!

If you've not read last year's story, you might be a bit lost about a couple of recurring characters and plot references, specifically anything to do with Lilly and George. I recommend reading Heroin and Hell, if you want a lot of background to these characters and their relationships to FAH.

Novel Context: Foil Arms and Hog are detectives at the Swine's Detective agency, which was started by Arms [see the 1st FAHn novel: FAH and the Case of Warehouse 1 for origin history.] Setting is 1950's Los Angeles. I'm continuing in the same time frame as the last novel I wrote for the FAHnArtChallenge, which was set in August 1954. Now the detectives are in November of the same year.

Main Characters: Foil Arms and Hog: detectives. Mildred Flynn: FAH's "girl Friday" at the agency, Lilly: prostitute, love interest of Arms. George: Foil's good friend in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD.) And a whole host of NEW characters.

Trigger Warnings: references (some blatant, some implied) to rape, physical abuse, sex work, and racial / ethnic slurs (which are appropriate for the time period.)

#FAHnARTChallenge Day 1 & 2: Friends & Fruits and Vegetables



November, 1954

“Ma!” Foil called, as he strode into his family home. He knew every square inch of the house so well that he could walk it with his eyes closed. His mother was usually doing something in her sewing room or the kitchen, his father hunkered down in his behemoth of a garden. Today Foil had arrived to see his father first; walking along the side of the house that had not yet been taken over by greenery, Foil entered into a wonderland of his father’s making; plants and vegetables of every variety, or at least whatever could be grown in the three-season weather of southern California.

“Ma!” Foil called out again, “I’ve got a load from Dad! I don’t know how you both manage! It’s like a jungle out there!”

He walked into the kitchen from the garden, the bright and inviting atmosphere of this homey space full of peace and tranquility. He loved the kitchen, always had. He’d spent many hours in it with his Aunt Eleanor, as a boy, and felt a surge of love whenever he entered, reminded of the times his family sat around the table, eating, playing cards or talking.

“I’m in here!” his mother called out. She was in her sewing room or what she called her “knitting corner.” At one time it had been a nursery, at another, a playroom for Foil and his brothers. Then a study, and finally a space for his mother, alone. She was always making clothes for her grandchildren, knitting for the seniors in the local community, or just sitting and reading.

“Ma! Could’ja help me with this stuff?!” he made his voice sound a little plaintive and exasperated, as if he couldn’t quite manage without her, but of course he could.

His mother emerged from around the corner, smiling at her son. “For the love of God what has he given you this time?!” and she laughed pointing to the table and moving towards the stove where a giant pot of something delicious stood.

In this space, Foil was a son and a brother; trips to the family home gave him a chance to unwind, relax a bit, and catch a moment’s respite from the busy world of his job as a detective. The spicy smells from the pot wafted towards him and he knew his mother was experimenting again. He chuckled to himself, wondering what concoction she would make him try this time. But he never minded. Coming home felt good and comfortable. These days Foil didn’t have much time to see his parents, but today, a rare Saturday off, he had made a point of stopping by and now he let the mass of fruits and vegetables that his father had piled into his arms tumble onto their blue Formica kitchen table in a heap.

His mother turned quickly at the sound of rolling fruit and neatly caught an apple that almost hit the floor. “Be careful Seán!” she scolded, a joyful light in her hazel eyes and love in her voice.

He looked at her and noticed a bit of red on her cheek. For a moment, he flashed on blood, but then realized that it was tomato sauce! “I really need this day,” he thought to himself, and sank down in the familiar chairs surrounding the table. He started to sort the horde in front of him, smelling the earthy goodness that he loved so much; each vegetable a rich color that he never saw in the grocery store. These were imperfect, but he knew they would be delicious in whatever form his mother chose for their end. Foil wished he could stay for more than a day with his parents, but the precious hours would have to do.

“Ma, you’ve got somethin’ on your cheek,” and he took a kitchen cloth and handed it to her.

“Oh, dear,” she said, laughing out loud, her tinkling staccato filling the air, as she wiped away the tomato sauce and sat down with her son to examine what her husband had sent in from the garden.

“Are you stayin’ for lunch, Seán?” his mother asked, as she began to organize the squash and zucchini, the tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans into piles. The apples were new this year and she hoped to make a pie. Fresh apple pie was her youngest son’s favorite and she wanted to send some home with him. She eyed him across the table and saw that he looked tired, worn out, his blonde hair beginning to gray at the temples. He needed more care, she knew that, but she wasn’t a pushy mother and she didn’t like to pry.

“Lunch, Seán?” she asked again more pointedly this time. He looked up at her and nodded. He would stay for lunch and see what was in store for him.

“Dad’s got a lot more this year, hasn’t he?” he asked his mother with a wry smile. “Is he still enterin’ those gardening contests?” His mother rolled her eyes, so he got his answer.

Smiling, Foil stood and walked to the kitchen counter where he could look out the back windows into the garden. After his father had retired from his engineering job, he had taken up gardening “as something to do”. That was four years ago and now it was a full-grown passion. Foil had helped his father build a shed in the backyard for gardening tools and what not. It was filled to the brim now; his father had to push the door open to get inside. Then a small greenhouse had popped up at some point in the years since for the winter growing season. Seed packets and catalogues were everywhere about the house, seedlings were always being started, and the apple trees his father had planted that first year of his new interest had finally begun to produce. Once there was a large lawn where he and his brothers, John and Robert, played football, but now there were rows upon rows of vegetables growing. This year his father had even started to talk about getting bee hives, but Foil wasn’t sure that would happen. His mother needed some space for her flowers, but it might be a lost cause in the long run. Dad was ever on about expanding.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with it all,” his mother lamented half-heartedly. “I’ve already given vegetables to the neighbors, but there’s always more. We’ll take tomatoes, a favorite, to church tomorrow. And your Aunt Eleanor has promised to pick up several bags of beans and apples for the convent, but we can never give it all away! I thought about setting up a stand in the front yard, but your father wouldn’t hear of it!” she sighed. “No, giving it away is the only solution. It’s the same every year, isn’t it Seán?” She didn’t sound unhappy, just resigned.

“I’ll take some for the boys and I’m sure Mildred would appreciate a nice pile of those apples.” He lifted one to his nose and took in a deep smell of sweet, tangy freshness. As much as his mother complained about the bounty, he knew she enjoyed the sense of community she got from sharing with others.

“Oh, that’s nice of you, Seán,” his mother replied, walking away from him to the pantry to find some paper bags. Returning, she called out the window to her husband, “Robbie, Seán’s gonna take some vegetables to his friends, can you bring in a few more things from the garden?” Foil watched as his father looked up at his name being called. He’d had his head buried in the runner beans, looking for pests with a magnifying glass.

But hearing his wife’s voice always brought a smile to his face, and now he was smiling doubly at the request to bring in more of the plenty. “Right, yep, I got ‘ya, Seánie boy!” he called, “anything special for ‘ya friends? Anythin’ in partic’lar?”

Foil replied to his mother that anything would do and she relayed this message out through the screened in window. Foil loved that this small request gave his father so much pleasure and he watched as his dad hunted around for the plumpest tomatoes and greenest zucchini. He would probably give Foil too much and Foil, in turn, would have to find someone to pass them along to besides Hog and his wife Laura, and Arms, but he didn’t want to reign his father in too much. Everything would be shared eventually; “nothing wasted” was the Finegan family motto.

Foil turned back to his mother and inquired about the smells on the stove, “what ‘ya makin’ this time, Ma?” He peered into the pot and eyed the red bubbling mass. It looked like a stew of some kind and smelled distinctly of tomatoes, pungent and sweet. His mother’s dishes weren’t always winners, but he and his father would try anything at least once. The rest would probably be taken to church the next day for the unsuspecting parishioners, who never turned down a free meal.

“Oh, it’s a recipe I found somewhere or it might have been given to me by your aunt. It’s got a lot of new spices I’ve never tried before. Not sure your father will eat much of it, but he’ll surely give it a go! And you too, Seán?” She eyed him with a twinkle in her, knowing full well that her son would eat anything she put in front of him.

“Of course, Ma,” he said, smiling at her. All of a sudden, he felt weary and in need of a rest.

He sat down again at the kitchen table and closed his eyes. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in the chair. A gentle, cool breeze wafted in from outside and he smelled the garden scents around him. He heard his mother going on about the new recipe as she stood at the stove, her back to him, talking. He listened as she explained what was in the pot and her speculations at how it would turn out. Her voice had a lovely sing song lilt and he felt that old drowsiness from his childhood when she would sing to him at bedtime. He always loved her voice and now he drifted into a hazy slumber right there at the kitchen table. He felt a calm peace about him, and an ease of living that he would try to hold onto in the coming days and weeks. This would be the last time he remembered feeling anything that might resemble normality in his life. For though he did not know it in that moment, ahead of him was a one of the darkest and most disturbing cases he would encounter in his career.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 3: Restaurant

Chapter 1

Running From Love

Late Afternoon, Truckstop, Border of Arizona / New Mexico November 15, 1954

Lilly sat in the roadside restaurant wondering what to do. She’d been on the road for several months, moving from one flop house to the next, turning tricks again, and sleeping with men for company and comfort. She wasn’t proud of this nomadic life, but she got by and made an okay living. Truckers picked her up most often; they fed her and gave her a place to sleep for the night. Their transient life suited her, the sex a by-product of her personal needs for food and shelter. Sometimes they were kind, other times brutal. Nothing about men surprised her anymore. But one man had surprised her, had set the bar high in her heart. She had never been cared for or cared about in her lifetime. Being around Arms and his friends, Foil and Hog, made her feel uneasy but only because they were kind to her. Men being kind to her was so foreign that she had run from LA instead of staying. Now, she regretted that choice.

She had very little money left, maybe a few dollars to her name. That night she would have to turn another trick to find a place to sleep. The restaurant was just off the highway and there were plenty of truckers coming and going. Lilly wanted to call Arms, but something kept her from going to the pay phone and dialing his number. As she sat there staring out the window at the mountains in the distance, she turned the nickel she held over and over again in her hand. It offered her a lifeline, but she was scared to take it. Her past was with her all the time now; the days she spent with Arms in the prison of pain were etched into her psyche. It had changed her, but also made her scared of love. She had found her voice for a time, when she felt needed, but that power had receded slowly and now the strong person inside her was long gone. Her time with Foil Arms and Hog reminded her of her deficiencies, her damaged self. Their kindness made her feel exposed as a fraud of a human being, undeserving of anything good in life. Even if she was wrong about herself, she desired to escape, turning to her old ways of sex work as a way to make ends meet. She hadn’t told Arms she was leaving. Just one day, she hitchhiked up the coast, feeling a need to escape. This was the beginning of her wandering life.

“You finished, dawling,” the waitress was beside her again, peering at her curiously. Lilly had been sitting there for hours, trying to make a decision.

“Just a little bit more coffee, please,” she said politely, looking up at the older woman with a pleading expression in her eyes.

“Sure thing, sweetie,” and the waitress poured the brown liquid into Lilly’s cup, placing the bill down with a finality that meant Lilly’s time was running out. The restaurant had been a warm resting place for her, but she couldn’t sit there forever. As Lilly sipped the hot coffee, she felt the eyes of the waitress on her. “We ain’t in the business of lettin’ people take up residence here, honey,” said the woman matter-of-factly, as she walked away.

Lilly looked down at the nickel in her hands. She sighed and left it on the table. Better for the waitress to have some kind of tip. Time to leave and face the world; picking up her bag, she paid the bill and walked outside into the sunshine. The day was cold, for it was the middle of November. Snow had already fallen on the mountains that loomed across the highway, beautiful and stark in the winter light. She shivered in her tight, thin dress and pulled the only coat she owned around her, closely. Her legs were bare, but that made her attractive to the men who picked her up. Like Hog had once thought, she did appear rather young and childlike, even though she was close to 30. Her blonde hair hung around her face, her lips and cheeks red from the cold. She wore heels, making her even more vulnerable and exposed. She was ill equipped for winter and knew it. All the more reason to find a nice trucker to take her in and be carried farther north and west.

She did have a destination. She was going to Las Vegas, Nevada. She’d heard it was good for girls in her trade and money could be made, lots of it. When she left LA, it was meant to be an easy trip; find someone to hitch a ride with, get herself there in a couple of days, but at points she had been taken too far and out of the way. She had been forced to retrace her steps and this meant sometimes she was going in circles across the American roads and highways. If she’d had any family, she might have gone to them for help. But she had no one. She’d gotten dumped at this place with the warm restaurant, veering off the path to Vegas again, and instead landing on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. She couldn’t pick and choose her path forward, she just had to go where the trucker was going and some of them didn’t want to let her leave. This was the dangerous part of hitting up men for rides; every time she stepped into another trucker’s cab, she took a chance that she might not be alive to step out again.

FAHnArtChallenge Day 4: Hobby

Chapter 2

A Reprieve

Late Evening on the road November 15, 1954

“Yep, got me here a hobby that I like, but don’t no one much like what I like, so it’s plum nice to talk to a girl who don’t mind nothin’ too much,” said Michael, the latest trucker to pick Lilly up. She had wandered around for a while, trying to decide who to ask to take her out of the area. She had grown road weary and wise about the men she encountered and lately she’d been able to pick some decent ones. Of course, all that meant was that they didn’t touch her too much and often only demanded sex later, at night. But she might have found the kindest man in Michael. He was traveling back to his home state of Utah and said he would take her all the way there. This wasn’t an ideal route, but then nothing about her life was ideal anymore.

“Collectin’. It’s what’s called an art, but I just call it easy money. I pick up stuff along the way, whatever suits me, and take it back home to the swap meets. My what people will pay for some junk. Well, it ain’t nothin’ to me. My missus she rolls her eyes when I drive up ‘cause she knows I gots somethin’ in my truck, but I ain’t bothered no how. One time I found me some bone Cheina from England and by golly you would’a thunk I had found me some diamonds! No one seen anytin’ like it back home! Made a small fortun’ off that pile. Cost me no more ‘an forty cent, but some man gave me five dollars for it!” And here Michael stopped to draw a breath.

It seemed the man could talk endlessly and Lilly had just let him. It was always better to let the men talk. She was a captive audience and would rather hear their story than tell hers. Typically, no one asked her about herself. Definitely no one cared. But Michael had seemed to care. This surprised her, but she had a ready lie available. It was always on the tip of her tongue in case someone did ask. Bad things had happened to Lilly, but she put all that out of her mind and didn’t dwell. When she saw Michael at the truck stop, he looked kind and approachable. And he had asked. He’d eyed her suspiciously, not appraisingly, like most men, and seemed hesitant to say yes to her and let her into his cab. Again, this was new, but it didn’t mean she dropped her guard or would, ever.

Lilly spilled out her story quickly to Michael: “I was taking the train across the country. Started out in New York City with my sister, but there was an accident and we got separated. She had the money with her and I got stuck. Well, I couldn’t call my folks. They’ve got nothin’, so I decided to make my way and hope for the best.” The lies tripped off her tongue so easily now, the story seemed real. She wondered that anyone believed her, but truckers were used to itinerant travelers, wanderers, and loners. Most never even asked again or questioned why she hadn’t gone to the police or tried to find help another way. They just took her word for it. Well, those were the nice men. The bad men didn’t bother to ask. Didn’t even care to know her name. Just saw her and took advantage. These were the ones who had dragged her into their cabs and then pushed her back out again when they were done with her. Some had not even taken her anywhere.

He was talking again, his voice soothing her into a kind of drowsy stupor so that she could barely keep her eyes open. “Been up and down the U S of A and seen so much. The things people ‘hrow ‘way on the side of ‘t road! Hoowheee! It’s shock’in sometime! I gots somethin’ right here,” and he reached past her, his strong arm coming into contact with her slight body. Suddenly she was wide awake, flinching away from his accidental touch and cowering, trying to make herself as small as possible, as she leaned against the door of his cab. She didn’t think about the movement or what it would mean to this man, it happened so fast. Though he was driving, he jerked his arm back immediately and looked at her, hard, keeping one eye on her and one eye on the road as the truck barreled down the highway.

There was a long pause as he appraised her and then he said softly, “I ain’t gonna hurt you, miss. I got a missus back home and two daughters. I’m a hardworkin’ man, Christian man, I am. I ain’t gonna touch ‘ya. I just was gonna show you somethin’. But that’s okay. It can wait.”

It was as if time had stopped inside the cab, as the truck rolled along with Michael keeping a strong hand on the wheel controlling the mighty vehicle and one eye on the road. He was still looking at her when she spoke, “it’s been hard. My sister and me, we protected each other, but now I’m on my own.”

This was a half lie. Life had been hard, very hard, dismal and treacherous, even, brutal, in fact. But there was no sister. She wished in her heart that the words were true. She almost believed they were, but only her imagination conjured up a sister. She was alone in the world. No sisters, brothers, parents; no family of any kind. Raised in foster care, shopped around to various families, landing somewhere finally, but without hope or belief in love. The first kindness that she had felt came from the man who had saved her. Taking her from the den of hell, where she had cared for Arms and kept him alive and protected. Hog had found her and saved her, but it was Arms who kept her heart locked from the love of any other man. He was in her heart and he alone.

Michael let Lilly’s words hang in the air for a good while, pondering the young woman and her plight. Thinking about her and occasionally looking over at the tiny, cornered being. “You hungry?” he asked, finally.

The question was so normal, so reassuring and kind. She had stayed up against his cab door, frozen, and unable to move, but at this question she felt herself relax and breathe again. He had since stopped looking at her, but he sensed every single move that she made. True to his word, however, he had no intention of touching her at all. Michael was a good man. Old fashioned in his ways of dealing with people; he treated them as he would like to be treated himself. He had wondered at this young woman wandering in the half light of the cold evening on the edge of the highway amidst a community of long-haul truckers. He’d seen her walking among and talking to the men; he’d sensed her fear and wariness. He knew she didn’t belong there and when she told her story, he wasn’t sure he even believed her, but he could tell that she needed care and protection. He missed his own daughters and saw in Lilly the slightest resemblance to his oldest girl, Katherine, and his heart went out to her. He thought his missus would understand this gesture of kindness and said he would take Lilly to Utah with him, as he was going home anyway.

It was not unusual for Michael to help another person. It was in his nature to do so, but this situation seemed strange, even to him. Still, his heart was in the right place and his fatherly instincts to protect had led him to say yes to the frail girl standing by his truck, when she asked if he was going anywhere near Nevada and, if so, could she get a ride with him. And now she was sitting in his truck cab, finally relaxing. Like so many men, he misjudged her age and thought she was younger than she was, but it didn’t matter much to Lilly. Men decided she was somebody to them that she wasn’t, no matter what she said or did. Only three men had respected her: Foil, Arms, and Hog. And now it seemed, much to her luck, this stranger.

A few minutes passed and Michael asked again, “you hungry?” and Lilly realized she had not responded. She was ravenous, but had stopped thinking about her body and its needs a long time ago. “Yes,” she said simply.

“Reach down there, under your feet, there’s a couple ‘a brown sacks. I gots some sandwiches. Picked up some sody-pops. Warm now, I bets, but it’s sometin.” His voice was soft and reassuring, as if he was talking to a small child. She followed his directions and brought out the bags.

Lilly could smell the meat even before she saw anything. “That’s right,” he said, “you just put your hand in there and see what yous can find.”

She pulled out two large, damp lumps wrapped in wax paper. She handed one to him and took the other for herself. The cab filled with the strong aroma of food, the first she’d had all day, since she had sat in the restaurant and sipped the last of the strong, hot coffee. She looked at Michael then, her eyes asking, pleading even to eat, as if she needed permission from him to take care of herself. He saw in that one look something that reminded him of an animal, lost and afraid, the fear catching up to her. Just as Hog had recognized in her eyes the loss in her life, Michael saw for the briefest of moments the tragedy that Lilly had experienced. “You goes on now, you eat,” he said with gentle finality, and watched as she settled into her meal.

The gregarious chatter of the previous few hours was gone now, as they both chewed their food, and Michael drove on into the darkness, his truck headlights illuminating a path on the road in front of them. He would put in at least two or three more hours before he would have to stop for fuel, but until then, he concentrated on his driving. Michael’s cab was deliciously warm and Lilly was struggling to keep her eyes open. She had eaten slowly, next to him, drinking the warm soda, the food healing to her in ways that only she could possibly understand. She forced herself to finish her meal because she was unsure when she would eat again. She had no idea how long it would take to get to Utah; she hadn’t seen a map. She simply had to trust this man to take her to the place he said he was going to. She had to trust him, but she did not. Yet, her body was deeply tired, as if every single cell in her entire being had been flattened onto the earth and a great weight draped over her. Finally, she succumbed to sleep.

Lilly woke up when a door slammed and she was suddenly aware that the truck was not moving anymore. She lifted her head where it had been pressed up against the window on the passenger side door and saw that Michael was gone. They had stopped to refuel and she heard him talking to a man at the gas station. She was used to stopping for fuel with the truckers she rode with and she was used to not moving at all when this happened. Her job was not to call attention to herself, not to speak, not to even be seen if she could help it. Sometimes other men did see her, but this was rare. She was a small woman and could duck down in the cab, as she did now. Lying curled in a ball and waiting for Michael to return, she looked up through the cab windows and could just see a sliver of moon in the sky. The whole world was out there and she was in here feeling small and insignificant. She had no idea what waited for her in her future, but she hoped that she would find a good life eventually. At that moment, she saw a falling star and sent out a wish to God that she would be safe and that one day, she might see Arms again.

#FAHnArtChallenge: Day 5 & 6: Office & Parents

Chapter 3

Lucy O’Brien: Missing

Early Morning, Los Angeles, November 15, 1954

Mildred arrived to the Swine’s detective agency on Monday ready to work hard. Each detective had several cases on their agenda and it was up to her to sort all the paperwork out and get everything organized for the week. As she pulled up in the alleyway outside the back entrance of their building, she noticed two people, a man and a woman, standing together talking. The sound of her car made them turn quickly and stare at her. She suspected that they were clients, new ones, probably. She parked and got out, bringing her usual assortment of baked goods with her, the plates balanced carefully in her hands as she maneuvered around her car and walked towards the door. Approaching, she watched as the two people, by the looks of them, a married couple, stepped forward. The man began to speak to her, and the woman chimed in anxiously, so that Mildred only heard about half of what they were saying. They both talked in a rush and with much urgency.

She caught, “our daughter” and “missing” and “she started a new job” and “can you help us?” and, finally, “we are desperate.” The two nameless people stared at her, pleading with their eyes, and, it seemed, expecting her to solve their problems right then and there.

Mildred was used to handling all kinds of clients and these parents, for she understood now that they were married and the parents of a lost daughter, were no different from many who sought out the help of a private detective in times of great need.

“Please come in . . .?” and she left the assumed question of names hang in the air.

“O’Brien. James and Mabel O’Brien,” said the man in a strong Irish accent, but with an emphasis on speaking with precision, as if trying to convince someone of the truth of what he was saying. “Our daughter is Lucy. 16 and an apprentice to a seamstress on Court Street. She started two months ago. Every mornin’ she takes the bus to this business and every evening she comes home on the same bus, but yesterday she didn’t come home.”

He ended this short explanation and Mildred could hear a tremor in his voice. It was one that surprised her, as she appraised the man standing in the alleyway. He appeared strong and sturdy, but almost aloof in his demeanor. He was clearly not a man to show his feelings and she surmised that for him to be on the verge of tears, as his voice seemed to suggest, he was in a very bad way, indeed. His wife seemed no better off, emotionally.

“Well, Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien let’s get into the office and hear more of your story. I’m sure we can help you,” said Mildred, leading the way into the agency. Rounding the corner with the O’Brien’s in tow, she saw a bag on her desk with a note on it, “apples from parents’ trees. Enjoy! Foil.” The lighthearted tone of the note and the kind directive made Mildred’s heart swell with a devotional love that she only had for this one detective in the agency. She worked hard for them all, but Foil was her favorite, though no one knew this secret piece of information, of course. Casually, she opened the bag and instantly smelled the sweetness of homegrown, ripe apples. But she didn’t have any time to enjoy this gift, for she needed to apprise the detectives of these new clients and get the desperate and despairing parents help as fast as she was able.

Mildred should have taken the O’Brien couple directly to Hog. It was understood that missing persons’ cases should be offered to Hog before any other detective in the agency. She knew this unstated rule; Hog had a knack for finding people, and even if he shared the case with the other two, he always took the lead on missing person’s cases. However, because of Foil’s kind gesture towards her he was uppermost in her mind at that moment and it was to his office she went directly, knocking on the door and receiving an affirmative response.

Watching as the couple entered his office, he took in their demeanor, assessing for himself, like Mildred had done, the two people in front of him. They sat and appeared to hesitate about who would speak first. The wife looked at her husband, and said, “you go on Jimmy,” and then was silent.

“It’s our daughter, sir,” Jimmy began, “she’s missin’, not come home last night.” He seemed to feel this was enough for Foil.

The couple and the detective sat for a moment and then Foil asked, “has this happened before?”

“No, sir! Never. She’s a good girl. Responsible. No, she always comes home. Been at her new job only two months. Responsible, I tell ‘ya. And a good girl” Jimmy’s emphatic tone and repetition of his daughter’s best character traits told Foil that the man spoke the truth.

“And how old is she?” asked Foil.

“She’s 16, sir. And never one to stray. She’s a good girl, I tell ‘ya! We brought her up right, and all. A good, God fearin’ girl, she is.” The earnestness of these last statements were offered with an agreeing and enthusiastic nod from the man’s wife.

“I see,” said Foil. “And did you go to the police if you were so worried about her? They have more man power, of course, and an entire division devoted to missin’ folks.” This question seemed to cause the man and his wife some emotional consternation.

“Yes, we did, sir. We went straight to the police, but they wouldn’t help us,” said Jimmy with rising anger in his voice. They said she would come home, but they don’t understand our girl. They told us to come back if she didn’t come home in some days. Days!! Anytin’ could happen to her! Days!! Please sir, we don’t have much money, but we’ll find it for ‘ya. Some neighbors they mentioned ‘ya, said some detectives in the city help anyone. That’s how we found ‘ya and we came directly. Please, we’re beggin’ sir. We don’t like ‘t beg, but it’s our girl, our own one. She’s our own,” and here Jimmy’s voice broke and he couldn’t go on. He dropped his head and his wife soothed him, patting his arm and whispering, “it’s okay, I know she’ll come back to us.”

The strength and emotional turmoil of the father’s pain at his daughter being missing touched Foil deeply. “We’ll help you,” said Foil.

At this statement, the father looked up with a grateful expression and said, “thank you, sir. Thank you. We’ve brought some money here,” and he began to pull out a worn billfold.

“No. That won’t be necessary. We’ve done nothing yet. I’ll need to know much more before any action can be taken. Keep your money for now and we’ll hope that Lucy makes her way home without any help from us.”

Jimmy looked wide eyed at the man sitting across from him. He had never encountered a person who refused money. It was a startling moment for this man and his wife. It was then and there that they put their full trust in Foil and the Swine’s detective agency. Yet, even trust cannot keep evil at bay, as they would find out soon enough.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 7: Future

Chapter 4

Disappearing Into the Night

Midnight, heading north towards Utah / November 15, 1954

When Michael returned to his truck after refueling, he made his usual rounds, checking the tires, the canvas cords, and the undercarriage, for any problems. This habit kept him outside the cab for several minutes. He’d been to the 24hour café attached to the service station and picked up some more sandwiches, a hot drink for Lilly, and candy bars for them both. He had settled into the idea that she would be there for the long-haul drive back to Utah and his home. He was already formulating the conversation he would have in his head with his wife and daughters about the young girl who had come along with him; he would try to convince them that Lilly could stay; for as long as she needed. He knew his daughters wouldn’t judge their father, but he wondered about his wife. Well, he would just chance it. The girl in his truck needed help and he was there to give it.

After the walk around, he got back into his cab. It took him only a few second to notice that it was empty. The sudden realization of the girl’s absence was like an electric shock to his body. He looked keenly at where Lilly had been. He had left her, covered with her own coat, sleeping. He had looked at her before getting out of his cab, thinking that he might wake her, but he thought better of it. He hadn’t been gone for more than 30 minutes in total.

“Where is she?” Michael wondered aloud, and then jumped quickly back out of his truck to search for Lilly. The world outside of the service station’s lights was pitch black, the night having settled into that time when it is the deepest and darkest at around midnight. Michael walked around the truck, following his previous path. He asked the service attendants if they had seen a young girl, their quizzical looks and negative responses indicating to him that such a question was a curious one. He walked back to the café and inquired, but to no avail. No one had seen Lilly.

It occurred to him that someone might have taken her from the cab, but he thought that highly unlikely on this stretch of highway. The service station was the only inhabitable place for miles, but he still walked beyond the bright lights out into the desert darkness and even at one point called her name in a moment of desperation. He didn’t want to drive away until he was sure she was gone; but he was also torn. She had only ridden with him for about five hours. But given his penchant for helping others, he questioned whether to stay or go. Should he wait until the morning when it was light? Sleep in his cab at this service station or push on home where his family waited for him. He didn’t want them to worry and he knew he could only do so much for this girl.

Watching from the shadows, just out of his sight, stood Lilly, pressing herself up against an out building. The cold wind whipped around her as she stood waiting to see what Michael would do. He had been kind to her, it was not a kindness she had felt for many months, but watching the falling star, thinking about Arms and the love she had for him and feeling so utterly insignificant, had brought about a shift in her that she did not expect. She was suddenly consumed by a claustrophobic feeling. She had to escape. She might be trapped in Utah forever if she went on with Michael. That realization gripped her with a fear that outweighed the safety of the warm cab and the man who had fed her, who had offered a reprieve from the brutality of the world for a few hours of her life.

She slowly rose in her seat and looked around, there was no one visible. Michael was probably in the café, so now was her chance to leave. She opened the cab door, feeling the cruel night air through her thin coat, and slipped to the ground unnoticed. Looking around, scanning the horizon, she saw the shadow of a small building just beyond the light of the service station, its dilapidated shape leaning away from the harsh wind. She thought she might be able to find a way inside, or at the very least, hide near the darkness of its form. Despite the cold, Lilly’s adrenaline and desire for freedom propelled her swiftly away from Michael’s truck. As she passed from light to dark, it was as if she was swallowed whole into the lonely desert plains, her form disappeared so swiftly. The building wasn’t much more than a lean-to and she could just see that there might be space enough to crawl permanently out of sight. But first she waited and watched.

Michael searched for her, even calling her name at one point as he headed towards the desert. Then she saw him return, back into the light, seeking her in corners, asking the attendants, going back into the café and returning to his truck. All of this in the space of about ten minutes; he seemed somewhat frantic at first, then as the minutes ticked past, she could tell that he was thinking, trying to decide what to do. She willed him to get into his truck and leave her. She wished that he wanted to leave, to return to his family where he could do some good for others, but he just stood, with a puzzled look on his face.

Finally, with utter relief, she saw him climb into his truck cab. But he still sat for a few moments before turning over the engine and driving off. She was unsure of her future, unsure of almost everything. What would she do? Where would she go? What would she eat? How would she travel now? These questions ran through her thoughts, as she still stood pressed up against the outbuilding in the dead of night. Only one feeling was crystal clear to her and this would keep her sustained with strength: the deep and abiding love she had for Arms.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 8 & 9: Chaos and Date

Chapter 5

A Murdered Girl, Unknown

Taylor Yard, very early morning, November 16, 1954

Foil stood over the body of a girl found at Taylor Yard, the epicenter of train activity in Los Angeles. The girl looked to be no more than 15 or 16, maybe even younger. The whiteness of her naked and exposed skin against the black gravel beneath her struck Foil as almost artistic, if the rest of her body hadn’t been so damaged. She looked like she had been beaten, the bruises on her face, neck, and upper arms were splotchy, purple and raw.

“Beaten to death?” mused Foil, his analytical brain already trying to piece together the beginnings of a case, “or strangled, maybe.” He couldn’t tell, but some of the marks around her neck looked worse than those on the rest of her body.

She was half dressed, a plaid skirt pulled up around her hips, no stockings or shoes, her breasts exposed to the elements. No purse or wallet found; she was invisible, an unknown. Her vulnerability and nakedness struck Foil as horrible and macabre. There was an innocence about her that he sensed had been defiled and his stomach turned at the thought of it. She might have been lying there for days, but he didn’t have a time of death or a date yet to make any solid assessments. His conversation with the O’Briens skipped into his thoughts, but he pushed it away in hopes that he was wrong. She could be anybody; anybody’s daughter, sister, niece, or granddaughter. Or she could be a prostitute, a wanderer, a kid from foster care, who knew? But his gut told him different.

She had been found by some railway workers on the tracks leading up the line towards the outskirts of the city. This track line was used almost solely to service rail cars, not for running passengers, so only workmen would have seen her. She had clearly been dumped there, probably killed elsewhere, as there was no blood around the body. Foil couldn’t see the back of her head from the way she was lying, but he wondered if the coroner would find a head wound. He suspected chaos in her death. She lay as if her body had been knocked about by something, or most probably someone without any restrictions to force, like a rag doll shaken and dropped from a great height.

A man named Arthur Stone had called him about the girl that morning. Stone, who ran an illegal gambling ring outside of his proper job as a train mechanic needed someone more discreet than the police to deal with “this mess,” as he so crudely put it to Foil when the detective arrived at the trainyard. Small time criminals like Stone inevitably knew detectives in the city; Foil had come up on his radar for one reason or another. “He’s as good a detective as any,” Stone thought when he called Foil, “maybe better than some.”

Missing girls weren’t new to the city of Angels, but Lucy was already more real to Foil than he expected her to be. There was something uncanny about the way the O’Briens brought their daughter to life in his office the previous day. He had agreed to take the case even before talking to Arms or Hog and now he was having misgivings about that decision. Here he was walking in blind to a new situation, the body of a girl at the trainyard and also a missing person’s case; he didn’t even have a picture of Lucy. That was supposed to arrive at the agency today, but he suspected he might very well be looking at the O’Brien’s daughter on the ground in front of him. Still, he would have to go through the proper channels, call the police, talk to his friend George, who would help him get in touch with the Missing Person’s division. But Stone balked.

“Foil, give me a break, man! I called yous in so the cops would stay scarce! You can’t just get rid of this girl? I don’t want no trouble. We don’t want no trouble,” and he put emphasis on the word “we” as if to suggest that others he knew had a stake in the gambling business too and might make life hard for Stone should the police show themselves.

Foil eyed the man standing before him with disdain and clear disgust. As much as he might look the other way about illegal gambling, his strong ethics barred him from helping someone make a girl’s body disappear just for the sake of money. Especially a girl in the state he saw now. As Foil stood there surveying the area where the girl was found, he kept returning to the O’Briens and their desperate pleas to find their daughter, “their sweet baby girl, their only child.” They’d had others, but lost them. They clung to Lucy like a lifeboat and to even let her leave the house and travel to work was a risk. But she had convinced them she could make good wages and for a time, life had been happy for the family of three.

Now, Foil stood under the grey morning sky in the trainyard, the clouds tumultuous and threatening rain, and thought about the parents’ plight. He had been especially touched by James O’Brien’s words of despair and the pain in his eyes when describing his daughter’s physical appearance, her daily routine, typical movements and path of travel to and from work. Foil sensed that the father was already defeated, that he only held out hope for his wife’s benefit, and that he had resigned himself to losing Lucy forever.

Stone was talking to him again. Foil heard the man’s voice like a buzzing mosquito in his ear. Coming out of his thoughtful reverie, he barked, “Stone!” interrupting the man’s babbling in mid-stream; “stop your yackin’ and take me to the nearest phone. I got a friend in the police department; I’ll get him out here and quick! Yous got to take care of yourself, your own problems. Never mind anytin’ else. We’s got a murder here, don’t be stupid!” And he looked Stone square in the eye, showing he meant business.

“Yeah, okay, I ‘tought as much, Foil. Sure ‘ting. I’s got you,” and he turned, defeated, regretting calling in Foil and hoping that the police wouldn’t find him out. He walked off towards his train hut where the only phone for several miles sat.

Foil didn’t follow him immediately. He couldn’t bring himself to walk away from the crumpled body on the ground. He wished he had something to cover her with, but he knew better than to touch her too much. He had been standing the whole time, but now he crouched down and took a closer look, gently brushing the hair back from her face to see the eyes of the dead girl, staring blankly. Foil closed the lids carefully. He could smell a faint whiff of something sweet, “a perfume?” he wondered. Examining the body before him, he suddenly felt a surge of rage. It swelled up in his heart as he looked at the lifeless form, never to breathe again. A girl’s future quelled by an unknown hand of evil; he despised men, for he was sure that a man had committed this crime. It had all the hallmarks of the kind of brutality men inflicted on women, especially young ones. Foil let the rage flourish for a few moments before standing resignedly and turning to follow Stone.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 10: The Rule of Three

Chapter 6


An Aside from the Author

A man sees his life in stages when he looks back on his history of living. He thinks about his beliefs, values, and perhaps even his ethics. What moral rules did he follow? How did he move forward in the best direction, making the right choices along the way? Foil lived his life through actions, but when it came to emotions, he lived by the rule of three; it was almost a mathematical structure of stability that lent itself to Foil’s way of thinking about people. That is, the bonding love between himself and his two brothers; the sustained power of strength among three friends working together in a detective agency; or even the peace of those rare and precious hours with his parents and Aunt Eleanor. It was not about superstition or faith in any god, but merely an understanding that to be a good detective meant compartmentalizing his emotions and sharing them only with those he could trust.

On November 16, 1954 the day had begun with finding the body of a young girl at Taylor Yard and it ended in pain. When Foil looked back on his life years later, after he had retired from being a detective and was revisiting old memories with friends, he saw this particular day stretch out in front of him in two distinct and defined moments of time: the before of Lucy O’Brien being a missing girl and the after of Lucy being a murdered girl. Every man has those realizations, a recognition of seeing something for what it was, only later, but never in the moment. In retrospect Foil saw this day, initially mundane and typically like so many others, and comprehended only much later how a missing and murdered girl came to mean so much to him and in the end, was a turning point not only in his career, but also in his heart, maybe even his soul.

Taylor Yard, mid-morning, November 16, 1954

The rain clouds threatened, as Foil stood waiting for the police to show up, the dead girl at his feet. He was like a sentry guarding her, watching for gawkers, the press who had picked up the story and were waiting to pounce. The men who worked on the trains seemed to know better and gave Foil a wide berth, coming up on him, nodding and walking away to some other part of the yard. The morning was cold and dark, the wind whipping at the girl’s skirt and lifting it unceremoniously. Her upper body bare, stark. Foil wished again that he could cover her up, but touching her would be a stupid move on his part.

When he heard the police sirens, he relaxed a bit, but saw Arthur Stone stiffen and look nervously around. Stone, ratbag that he was, chose to disappear then; he distracted Foil with a question about the girl, and by the time Foil looked up the man was gone, stealthily slipping away. He decided to let Stone go because it was easier to be vague with the police than to persuade Stone to tell the truth. And now, Foil watched as a young police officer made his way across the yard, seeming not to relish his job.

“You been here long,” the officer asked Foil when he got up close to him. “Name’s MacPherson,” and he nodded to Foil in the way of a greeting.

The officer peered down at the dead girl like she was a foreign object not to his liking. Foil ignored the first question, but took note of the way MacPherson walked around the body surveying it with a dismissive air. “Probably some whore killed by her pimp,” was what he grumbled to Foil. “These girls get themselves in all sorts of trouble,” and he spat on the ground to show his disgust for the work he had been given. He clearly had no respect for the dead, a dark mark against him in Foil’s book of detective and police ethics.

“You a detective?” asked the officer, mildly curious.

“Yes,” said Foil. “Look here, I got a phone call this morning. An anonymous tipster said a girl had been found at the Yard. Came to check it out. Then I called it in.”

“Yeah, okay. You gets a star for good citizen. I’m tellin’ yous these girls they’re a dime a dozen. Sees it all the time. Out for a night with a fella, they is! And then it goes all wrong!” and MacPherson laughed.

Foil heard only a smarmy tone in the officer’s words; his mouth and nose pointed like a weasel or a rat. “The coroner comin’?” Foil asked, trying to push the officer along in his job.

“Yep, they’s comin’,” was all he got.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll stay until he does arrive,” said Foil calmly, feeling the rise of rage in his chest again. Foil was used to the high standards of his friend George Theobald, Sergeant, but this officer was lazy and cared little for what he was doing. To him, the girl’s body and her life were inconsequential.

“Not one of LAPD’s finest,” thought Foil, as he walked back to his car after the coroner had come. But he knew that despite the officer’s disdain, if he wanted to keep his job, he had to follow protocol. That was the only saving grace this man had to offer, otherwise, he was a useless sod of a policeman.

Swine’s Detective Agency, early afternoon, November 16th

Murder was nothing to get used to, according to the Swine’s detectives. And the murder of a child or at the very least, a young person, was always considered the worst possible crime. Foil knew as soon as he saw the O’Briens waiting for him in Mildred’s office, that he was facing telling them their daughter was dead. He knew when he first saw the girl’s body at Taylor Yard it was Lucy O’Brien. He knew that as he talked to Arthur Stone, as he closed the dead girl’s eyelids, as he waited for the police officer to arrive, and as he watched the coroner come and take her away. He knew in his gut, in his mind and in his heart that the body now lying in the Los Angeles morgue was 16-year-old Lucy O’Brien, who just days before had been home with her parents, alive and well and presumably happy.

Ushering the parents into his own office, Foil saw clutched in James O’Brien’s hand a picture of Lucy and he felt his heart sink. It was the sole photograph that they had of their child, but they were very willing to hand it over. “Anyting’ for Lucy, you see,” started James O’Brien, haltingly, “we’ll do whatever it takes, sir.”

Nodding, Foil took the photograph from the father and looked at it. He saw a young girl smiling at the camera. She was in her best frock, and she sat primly, in a posed, rather stiff position. Foil wished that he didn’t remember the naked girl, battered and dumped at the train yard. He wished that he could put that child out of his mind and replace her image with this innocent, but it was not to be. He only remembered her horrible nakedness, the bruises on her upper body, the purple rawness of her skin. The rage began to rise again, and he pushed it away, as the inevitable approached. The moment when he would have to tell the parents the truth.

Foil thought that there was nothing more heartbreaking, more truly gut-wrenching than the sound a mother can make upon learning that her only child has been murdered. The deep, guttural wails of sorrow and pain from Mabel O’Brien seemed to fill Foil’s office, ricocheting off the walls and down the hall of the agency until all the world could hear the mother’s anguished voice. She was inconsolable, as her husband tried to comfort her, his own tears coming fast and unchecked. The two parents sat in Foil’s office lost in the recognition of the child they would never see alive again.

He had offered one or two sentences to them, their faces changing from shock to disbelief to anguished horror. Foil felt the meaninglessness of his words, explaining in simple terms where Lucy had been found, but not in what state. They would discover that in time, but now it was the shattering and debilitating news of Lucy’s death that had to be taken in and understood.

Maybe it was that Foil had just spent time with his parents, felt the warm love of his own mother, the joy of his own father at seeing him in their back garden, that made him feel keenly the pain of the O’Briens. Yet it wasn’t like he hadn’t taken on these sorts of cases before, hadn’t dealt with missing girls, even, or murdered ones. He was a seasoned detective, after all, with at least fifty cases under his belt, years of experience, and hours upon hours of dealing with clients of all types. But there was something about this case that got under Foil’s skin and affected him deeply. As he stood outside of his office, listening to the wailing continue, he felt the rage rise in him again, an all-consuming surge of emotions that startled him at their intensity and solidified his determination to find Lucy’s murderer.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 11 & 12: Passport & Favorite

Chapter 7

The Garment District

Late Afternoon, Swine’s Agency, November 16, 1954

“You should have brought me in sooner,” Hog said, not with anger or resentment, but more with observational astuteness.

Foil bristled at this statement, rounding on Hog with fury in his voice, “she’s dead. Fuckin’ dead, there’s nothin’ to do about it now.” Foil let his rage land, hard, at Hog.

Hog looked at his friend and saw the anger in his eyes, but he also saw a new pain, something with which he was unfamiliar. He didn’t say anything. He let Foil be, let the anger hang in the air between them. Decided it was not much use challenging Foil and better to move on to another topic.

The two men were in Hog’s office. The parents had gone, finally. Mildred had called them a cab, an expense that the detective agency paid for, and Foil had promised to see them the next day at the morgue.

Hog had heard the mother’s wail, had an inkling about the why of it and had waited until the parents had left before calling Foil into his office to get the lowdown on the case. It was not unusual for a missing child to go to a murdered one, but it was clear to him that something about this case had upset Foil to the point of distraction. That is, Foil would typically have gone to Hog to discuss his meeting with the O’Briens before this, might even have asked Hog to meet him at the trainyard to assess the situation together, but that never happened.

“You okay?” Hog asked, kindly.

Foil glared at him. “Yeah, why shouldn’t I be?” He spat the words out, like they were molten, barely able to contain his emotions. “You sayin’ somethin’ bout me? Somethin’ I did?”

“Nah, nah,” said Hog carefully. “I just want to help. These missin’ cases is hard, never a favorite in our line of work. Children, death, the pain of parents. You remember what it was like on our first case, with Bella? That drove me ragged and this one’s at the beginning, but at the end too, you just got a body and nothin’ else. Now yous gots to find a murderer. It ain’t easy, none of it.” Hog spoke both as a seasoned detective and as a friend. He watched Foil relax. “Now, what’s the plan? Whatta you thinkin’?” He felt it was best to move Foil in the direction of action, rather than dwelling on the emotional details of the case.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right,” said Foil, seeming to snap out of his rage and start to think again. He appreciated Hog’s logical way of looking at the world and at cases. He knew that he should have brought Hog in right away, should have sought out his advice, but here they were now and he had a murderer to find. Better with two than with one.

“The parents said Lucy worked as a sewin’ girl for one ‘o the big warehouses in the garment district. Best to get down there and talk to some of the girls, see who the boss is, get a lowdown on the way things work there. “You comin?” asked Foil.

“Yeah, sure,” said Hog, and then he added, “it’s a good move. You seein’ the parents at the morgue tomorrow. Thatta be hard too, no denying it. But you gots to keep movin’ on this case or it will die before it’s got off the ground. Just remember how hard it was to find Bella. Now we gots to find a murderer and hope he don’t get to more girls. That’s our job now, find the scumbag who got to this girl and get him off the streets!”

Foil and Hog drove together to the garment district, a sprawling area of Los Angeles that almost seemed like a neighborhood until itself. It could have had its own zip code it was that large. Arriving at the warehouse to the address that Lucy’s parents provided to Foil, they found that everything was starting to close down for the day. Workers were already leaving the building, streaming out in droves to take buses home or to go shopping for their families.

The men walked into the warehouse where only days previous Lucy had been working as an apprentice, learning the skill of sewing and making dresses for department stores. Foil noticed immediately that the warehouse air was heavy and recognized that it might be hard to breathe if it weren’t for some of the open windows along the back wall of the building. Everywhere Foil and Hog looked, there were sewing machines and racks of dresses of all shapes and sizes. Neither man knew much about women’s fashion industry, but apparently it took huge numbers of people to produce what ended up in the area stores.

They walked into the warehouse further, taking in what was around them.

“Can I help you?” asked someone behind them.

They turned to see a woman of about 30, curled brown hair, little makeup, who looked like she might have some authority.

“We’re looking for the boss, a manager, or the employer of these women,” said Hog matter-of-factly, pointing to the sewing stations lined up in the warehouse.

“Yes, of course, that would be Mr. Marvin Henshaw. He’s the floor manager, in charge of the daily running of the factory and overseeing the workers. And you are?” she inquired politely.

Hog looked at Foil, who produced Lucy’s photograph and showed it to the woman. “We’re here about this girl,” said Foil simply. He offered no other explanation of who they were. Perhaps they looked important enough in their well-pressed suits to impress upon the nameless woman that they had some authority to be there in the warehouse. They hadn’t said they were police, but she must have assumed some kind of relation to the city’s finest because she looked at the picture and nodded, saying, “right this way.”

But Hog had seen a flicker of recognition cross her rather bland features and before they could go anywhere, he said, “you seemed to know her, Miss?”

“Mrs. Harding, sir,” said the woman in a flat tone. “I’m the senior seamstress. I oversee the making of these garments and the running of the machines. The girls who work under me are some of the finest in the district. Yes, to answer your question, I recognize the girl. Lucy something or other. I’m sorry I can’t remember her last name. She was quite new, but from what I do remember she was a fast learner and I didn’t have to spend much time with her. I don’t see much of the girls who learn quickly. I believe Lucy was working with Gladys Miller. You see, the girls work in tandem and take alternate breaks so production isn’t ever slowed down. You’ll have to ask Mr. Henshaw about Gladys. He might know more,” and again, she moved to take them to the floor manager’s office.

Navigating her way through the warehouse floor, Mrs. Harding arrived at the rear of the building to a small off set space in which an office was clearly housed. “Here we are, sirs,” and she turned on her heels and left in a most exact manner.

“She’s a tricky broad; hard to read, but she knows more than she’s lettin’ on,” said Hog to Foil with a knowing wink. “We’ll have to talk to her again. I ‘spect that a lot of the girls talk to each other. Let’s see what we can get out of this Mr. Henshaw,” and he stepped forward to knock on the office door.

“Come in,” called a gruff and heavy voice. The man sounded like a bear, but when the detectives opened the door, they were confronted with a very small man sitting behind a very large desk. On that desk were a vast array of papers. Foil caught in that pile a stack of passports. He wondered briefly what the floor manager was doing with such documents.

“Yes?” Mr. Henshaw queried, clearly not used to strangers arriving after work hours, “what can I do for you?” He was not pleased, his eyes showing suspicion and judgment immediately.

“We’d like to talk to you about this girl,” and Foil once again produced the photograph of Lucy, “she worked for you?”

Hog watched as the man took the photograph from Foil and seemed to linger over it. There was a distinctly lascivious look in his eyes. Hog suspected that some of the girls saw too much of the inside of Mr. Henshaw’s office and not always for the best reasons.

“We hired her as an apprentice about two months ago. What of it? She in trouble?” asked Mr. Henshaw, dragging his beady eyes away from the girl’s face to Foil and Hog.

“She’s dead, sir. Murdered,” Foil said simply.

“What? How terrible! The poor girl! What a shame and I understand she is the only child of her parents,” said Mr. Henshaw, seeming to express the appropriate amount of shocked horror for the occasion.

“We understand from Mrs. Harding that she worked with a girl named Gladys Miller. What can you tell us about her? And how about an address? We’d like to talk to the girl,” said Hog.

Mr. Harding looked at Hog with an even more suspicious eye and said slowly, “are you the police, sir? You didn’t say how you are involved in this matter.”

Hog could tell that Mr. Henshaw was holding back information, but they weren’t police so they couldn’t justify getting the address. And he felt pushing the man would be both dangerous and risky for their case. He chose to tell the truth.

He said, “we’re private detectives, working for the parents of the dead girl.”

“Ah, not police, then,” said Mr. Henshaw, clearly relieved by this information. He smiled in an obsequious manner and said, “well, I’m sorry I can’t help you. I can only give such information to the police, as you know.”

Yes, they very well did know. “Can you at least tell us your impression of Lucy O’Brien,” said Foil. He was determined to get some information out of this odious man. “Was she a good worker, would you say? Did she ever cause any trouble or seem like somethin’ was botherin' her?”

These questions appeared not to ruffle Mr. Henshaw’s feathers as much as the request for Glady Miller’s address. He replied, shortly, “she was a good worker, on time, clean at her station, no trouble, stayed to herself. Yes, a fine worker, indeed.” He stopped and looked down at the photograph of Lucy again, his eyes lingering for just a bit too long on her face.

Hog noted this and felt that like Mrs. Harding, Mr. Henshaw was hiding something. Probably something crucial to their case, but he wasn’t going to give up anything to the two detectives now that he knew they weren’t police.

Thanking the man for his time, Foil and Hog left, both dissatisfied with what little they had found out about Lucy’s time as a seamstress. “The man’s unpleasant though, ain’t he, Foil?” said Hog as they walked back to the car. “He looked at that photograph too long for my liking. He’s a wrong ‘un for sure. I feel bad for those girls that work for him,” said Hog in a disgusted tone.

“Yeah, I didn’t like the man either, but that Mrs. Harding, I think we could get more out of her. The first order of business now? To find Gladys Miller. I’ll call in a favor to George, he’s bound to be able to help us!”

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 13: Advice

Chapter 8

A Call to Arms

Early morning, a Service station somewhere in Arizona, November 16, 1954

When Lilly had watched Michael drive away, she felt relief, but only momentarily. Now, she was really on her own and the stark reality of this hit home to her as she stood for a few moments in the chilling wind and darkness of the night. Then she came to her senses and looked at what was around her. The building that she stood next to wasn’t much of anything, but she could see some boards pried away and she pulled on these, the sound of the creaking caught by the wind and carried off. She was a small woman and was able to just about crawl into what appeared to be literally a hole in the wall, dragging her bag in with her. As she felt timidly around her on the ground she came upon some burlap sacks, empty and stiff, but these might act as a shield to the wind. And there she sat, waiting for sleep to come, listening to the night close in around her, feeling the smallness of her existence.

As the night wore on, Lilly was desperately cold and she huddled inside the tiny space in the out building. She wished for the sun to rise and shed light and heat on the world. The hours seemed interminable and by the time she saw a dim light through the boards, on the horizon, she was so cold that she could barely move. In the time that she sat, shivering, she thought about her life situation.

Was her rash decision to leave Michael’s truck cab going to haunt her now? She thought that she might have gone to the service station café after Michael left, but she was afraid of being seen, being tied to him. She needed to hide, keep out of sight, and disappear so that no questions were asked. What if he returned and found her; he would surely make her come with him. No. She had felt the fear of being caught, trapped by yet another man who would want her to do things his way, even if he thought he was helping her. Yet, now she realized how vulnerable she was and for the first time in her journey north, she understood that she had thrown her life away when she left Foil Arms and Hog. The stupidity of her choices rose before her and suddenly she was filled with abject despair. The tears fell unchecked down her cold cheeks; the whole world was on her shoulders and she was totally and utterly alone.

As she cried, she saw that the night sky was turning orange and that the dawn was approaching. The relief she felt at seeing the darkness disappear gave her some hope. The first that she had felt in some time. She wiped her cheeks, rubbing her eyes to see more clearly, and prepared to leave her hiding place, pushing the burlap bags aside, and crawling carefully out into the world again.

Standing shakily on her aching legs, she looked down at her crumpled clothes. The air around her was cold and damp, but the sun’s rays brought a tiny bit of radiating heat to her chilled bones. She hadn’t washed in days, didn’t know when she had last felt warm water on her body. “I’m a mess,” she said to herself. She took a compact mirror out of her bag and looked at her face, which was blotchy from the cold, her eyes dark, sunken lines shading her lids. She put a comb through her straggly blonde hair and tried to make herself look presentable.

She was very hungry and thirsty. She desperately wanted to get inside the café, but hesitated, worried about what people might say to her, what they might ask her. But she had to get somewhere warm, had to eat. She had a few dollars left, enough to get a decent meal and make a phone call to Arms. If she could reach him, he would help her, give her advice, make things better. He would be at the Swine’s agency at this hour, drinking whiskey and listening to his blues music. Thinking about him made her heart break, but she had to take life in moments now. First, she needed to get to the café and then she would call Arms.

Coming out from behind the small building that had been her refuge for the night, she was alone as she made a beeline for the café. She walked with determination, making sure to look as if she had a purpose for being there. Entering, she sat in the nearest booth and felt the heat wash over her body, an elixir of life that spread like a fire across her skin and filled her with a sense of intense physical comfort. She was so small, that at first no one noticed her, then the waitress glanced up. Sidling over, she asked, “coffee?”

“Yes, please,” croaked Lilly, her voice barely audible even to herself.

The waitress looked at her keenly, “you been out in this cold weather? Where you come from? I didn’t see no car drive up. Someone drop you here?”

“Yes,” was all Lilly said to these questions. “Coffee, please,” and she offered no more information for the curious waitress.

As the woman began to walk away shrugging to herself, Lilly asked, “do you have a pay phone?” Turning, the woman cocked her head and gestured towards the back wall.

Lilly waited until the waitress returned with her coffee and took her breakfast order before sliding out of the booth. All of her senses were heightened as she walked towards the pay phone. The warm air smelled of bacon fat frying and she heard the sounds of clanging pans, chatting, and saw new customers coming in from their highway travels. The pay phone was in a little corner, tucked away so people couldn’t see her. It had an intimate feeling to it that surprised Lilly, but one for which she was also grateful. She took out a cold nickel and dropped it into the machine, dialing Arms’s number at the agency. The phone rang. It was startlingly clear in her ear it was so loud, but no one seemed to hear it but her. She waited.

It seemed that she let the phone ring a million times, but perhaps it was just five or six. Her heart pounded in her chest as she imagined Arms sitting in his office, staring at the phone, not wanting to answer it. Sometimes he could get apathetic, move inside himself, forget about everyone in the world and drown his sorrows in liquor and loud music. Sometimes, but not always.

“Hello! Swine’s agency, Detective McKenna speaking!”

His voice sounded like a boom in her ear, for a moment she couldn’t speak, the silence hanging there in the air, between them.

“Hello! Who’s there?” He sounded irritated, rushed.

“Arms.” She said his name. Softly, spoken into the receiver.

“Lilly! Is that you? Where you been? Lilly, Lilly,” and his voice resonated with intense and heartfelt emotion for her.

“Arms.” She said his name again and then started to cry. She hadn’t meant to cry, didn’t want to cry, wasn’t going to cry. But she was crying. And he was soothing her over the phone from far away.

“Hush now. Just tell me where you are and I’ll come get you. I’ll come rescue you, my darling. My own sweet love.” The words came tumbling out him with ease, unchecked. He was not even conscious of wanting to hold back his emotions, he was so happy to hear her voice, so glad to know she was alive and calling him! Him!

“No, Arms, don’t come for me. I’m coming to you. I’m coming back to you! I should have never left. Oh, I’m so sorry for all of the pain that I caused you, but I’m coming back to you, I promise! Oh, Arms, I . . .”

And then Arms heard a click and the phone went dead.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 14 & 15: Late & Car

Chapter 9

Lock Picking 101

Nearly midnight, Garment district, November 16, 1954

The late-night hours in the garment district were eerily quiet. Foil drove along their dark and deserted streets in his car, easing up on the gas so that he made as little noise as possible. It was late, nearing midnight and from what he could see, the only people around the area were security guards. But even these men were scarce. It was the quick sight of the passports earlier in the day in Marvin Henshaw’s office that had sent alarm bells off for Foil and he knew that if he didn’t follow this lead, he might lose sight of a vital clue. And he had to go alone. No need to drag family man Hog into the picture for this kind of illegal move.

Breaking and entering. That’s what the police called it. Well, that’s what Foil called it too, but how else was he going to get a look at Henshaw’s desk and those passports again? He rolled quietly into the shadows and turned off his car. He had decided to go around the back of the warehouse; this hemmed him in, but it would be an easier way to get inside, he was sure of it. Stepping out into the cold air from his car, he held his gun in his right hand and a flashlight in his left. He didn’t like to shoot, wouldn’t shoot, in fact, if he could help it, but having a gun was a necessity in this part of the city, especially at night.

It was the back of the building that he wanted access to, a window would work perfectly for getting in, but what he didn’t expect to find was a back door. Most warehouses that he encountered didn’t have this luxury, but perhaps those in the garment district were built differently. He wasn’t sure, but in this instance, he didn’t care. Whatever worked to his benefit this late at night was good enough for him. Foil hadn’t picked many locks in his time as a detective, but in a pinch, he found he wasn’t that bad at it. This proved to be one of those times when luck continued to be on his side.

The door opened easily and without a sound; closing it behind him, he ventured into the warehouse searching for Henshaw’s office. Foil’s journey to this spot took him into the oncoming path of several large sewing tables and more than once he knocked his knees and shins hard on the larger machines. Each time, he stopped and stood still, breathing and waiting for any sound, voice, or light to appear. When none did, he moved on, searching.

Finally, he found the office. The door was locked. “No surprise, there,” said Foil in a whisper, thinking about the odious man he and Hog had met earlier in the day. He brought out his trusty lockpicking set again and this time he found that on the first try the door swung open. The office appeared quite clean, the desk swept of all documents and appearances of work of any kind. Moving quickly around to the front of the desk, Foil saw many drawers, each with a single lock and his heart sank. He had hoped his luck would continue, but now he saw that he would have to apply patience to this task. Each lock had to be picked, each drawer searched and then locked again. The latter was harder than the former. Doors weren’t so bad, but intricate locks on desks drawers had proved quite difficult for Foil in the past. He did not relish what was before him, but he had to begin.

He looked at his watch. 12:30am. He tried the first drawer, simply by pulling at the handle. It didn’t budge. He applied his lock pick to the key hole. Nothing happened. He worked at it again, trying another pick, a smaller one this time. This seemed to do the trick and he went to work, searching. But he found nothing of importance or interest in this first drawer. The same occurred for several more drawers. He was beginning to get frustrated with what was proving to be a herculean task. He looked at his watch again. 1:45am. The time which had passed shocked him. He had to work faster, but there were still at least ten more drawers to conquer.

He was beginning to sweat, even though the night was very cool and the warehouse itself was cold. He was sure that the passports were important, but now he was starting to question whether he had seen them at all. What documents he had found so far were all related to the running of the warehouse and the making of dresses. There were the usual time sheets, hours logged, breaks taken. There were employee cards with the women’s names on them, their job title, a detail or two about their sewing abilities. Nothing seemed out of place or even out of the ordinary. Maybe Henshaw had taken the passports home with him, but Foil felt this wasn’t the case. He was sure they were tied to the warehouse and Lucy O’Brien. Maybe even Gladys Miller, the girl he and Hog still had to find.

He looked at his watch again. 2:45am. Two more drawers to go. Two small ones with two tiny locks. These were the worst kind and the easiest to be broken if Foil wasn’t particularly careful. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his suit. He was crouched down on his knees, peering at one of the two final locks when he heard a noise in the warehouse, as if something might have fallen to the floor from one of the tables. He froze and turned off his flashlight immediately, then he felt for his gun and tried not to breathe. He waited. But as he sat and listened, he heard absolutely nothing. He closed his eyes and concentrated. Still, nothing. Not a movement, a brush of wind, or a bird call. He heard nothing inside the warehouse and nothing outside of it. He moved on.

As luck would have it or as Foil later thought, “as luck would not have it,” it was the final drawer that he opened out of which he pulled a handful of passports. From the looks of them, they seemed to be mostly Irish and American, but there might have been one or two from Poland as well. Foil couldn’t tell. He looked at his watch. It was almost 4am. Time had not been on his side throughout this quest. And now he had a choice. Take the passports, or pour over them there in the office and try to remember what he found. He thought about this for a few moments and decided that taking them would be too risky and might add to the crimes that he was already committing. He began to flip through them quickly, not recognizing the names or the faces that he saw, when all of a sudden, he came upon James O’Brien’s passport in the pile. Next, he found Mabel’s. He did not see Lucy’s anywhere, though Foil assumed that she had one. He stared at the two faces before him. There was no reason for Lucy’s employer to hold onto her parents’ passports unless Henshaw was doing something dirty with them.

“Bribery or blackmail" wondered Foil out loud. His voice sounded strange in the silence. “But for what? And why?” The gears of his brain had started to turn over, even at this late hour. He felt that the O’Brien couple were good, honest people. He hadn’t known them for long, but the pain and anguish for their daughter was sincere. Foil did not believe that they were criminals. But Henshaw was holding something over them, if he was keeping their passports at Lucy’s place of employment. “Did he murder their daughter?” thought Foil.

Lock-picking he decided was arduous work, but definitely a good skill to have as a detective. Every drawer and door was locked and he was standing outside in the early morning light when a security guard came around the corner and saw him. Foil didn’t wait to be asked, but said immediately and enthusiastically, “waitin’ for the boss to come. Applyin’ for a job today. I hope I gets it.”

The guard nodded at him and smiled. “I wish ‘ya good luck, son,” he said, as he strolled past Foil to take his final check of the warehouse.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 16: Planet

Chapter 10

Two Lives, Separated

Early morning, Swine’s agency, November 16, 1954

Arms sat and stared at the receiver in his hand. Lilly’s voice had thrilled him as soon as she said his name. The wave of love for her that swept over him was intense, but now the shock of the phone going dead had left him cold, stunned to his core that she was suddenly gone. He had no idea where she was, couldn’t even remember hearing anything on the other end of the line that might give him a clue. He was certain she was far away, probably too far for him to find her in the immediate future. This overwhelmed him and he felt paralyzed, lost in a sea of unknowns. Anything could have happened to her, anyone could be hurting her as he sat there in his office, busy as usual, but unable to do anything for her. This was a private pain; he preferred to keep his love and his anguish to himself. His friends knew nothing and he would leave it that way, for a time at least.

Arms put the receiver that he had been holding back on the phone’s cradle and poured a glass of whiskey. He had been drinking too much lately, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. He looked at the amber liquid in the glass and thought about Lilly, the strange, hard experiences that had connected them. He thought about the time together in that horrible room; the memories were sparse, strung together in grey, hazy moments when he came in and out of his drug induced stupor, the heroin numbing his body. What he did remember of Lilly during that time was her presence, her physical warmth, her care of him, even as she suffered at the hands of the brutal men who came to hurt her. And like now, he was useless to her. He could do nothing to help her; he never protected her, was unable to, and he was tormented afterwards with this knowledge and recognition. As a man, he should have been the one protecting her, but she protected him and paid dearly for it.

Arms sat and pondered their past together, short lived, and painful. He was indebted to her; he owed her his life. This hung between them in the early days of his recuperation and hers. But the instability between them also was present and he didn’t know how to love her. When she pulled away and left him, he knew in his heart that he should have followed her, should have brought her back, should have cared for her. But he was a coward. He let her go. And now he felt the piercing loss of not having her near him. Separated on the same planet, moving in different spheres, he in one world, she in another; he hoped that they would find each other again. It was not just that he had let her walk away, but that hearing her voice only made their separation harder. He drank more whiskey, feeling the numbing pleasure of the alcohol waft over him. And then he whispered what amounted to almost a prayer: “dear Lilly, wherever you are, come back to me, please, my darling.”

Early morning, inside the 24 hour café, November 16th

Lilly sat staring at the man who loomed over her, grinning wickedly. She still had the phone receiver in her hand, but now he took that from her and placed it on the cradle. “Well, look at ‘ya, little lady! I wondered what happened to ‘ya. I ‘tink you still owe me somethin’, don’t ‘ya?” and he leered at her, his eyes sweeping over her body.

Lilly hadn’t even seen the man walk up to the pay phone; she had been so engrossed in talking to Arms. She had been happy for one moment, relieved to hear Arms’s voice on the other end of the line and prepared to run to him at once. Then he was gone, their conversation cut off in an instant by the hand of a man who only wanted one thing from her.

Now, she felt trapped and alone. “Hello, Richie,” was all she said. He was a dangerous man, she knew that. She had seen him on the road at one of the many truck stops she passed through. He had catcalled her as she walked near his truck; she took no notice of him, looking straight ahead, but then he grabbed her from behind and tried to push her into his cab. She fought back and managed to get away; how she did it, she couldn’t remember. She ran and ran, making her way towards the highway. Better to be out in the elements than caught like an animal in a cage. The experience was all a blur, yet she remembered, strangely, his name. He didn’t come after her. But she felt certain that if he found her again, he wouldn’t let her run so easily and now here he stood, in the one place she never expected to see him.

“I don’t owe ‘ya nothin’ Richie,” she said quietly. She didn’t want to call too much attention to herself, hoping that he would go away. But she knew he wasn’t going anywhere, wouldn’t go anywhere without her. She had always tried to stay out of people’s way, if she could help it, unless she needed a ride somewhere. Richie had been a step too far in the direction of no return; if she had gotten into the cab of his truck, she never would have gotten out again. Not that he would kill her, she didn’t think that, but he would keep her and that was worse.

He was standing as close to her as he possibly could in that tiny space that housed the pay phone. She was backed as far up against the wall on the corner bench tucked just out of the way of everyone’s line of sight. Yet, if she turned her head slightly, she could see past him just enough to tell that the place was getting busier, more cars were rolling up and stopping for breakfast, and the chatter was rising around her. She didn’t move; he still stared down at her, clearly enjoying the closeness of his body to hers, and the fear he was making her feel.

Then he reached out and tried to touch her and she screamed. It was a high, piercing scream that stopped the talking in the café in one instant and forced everyone to turn towards the sound. The scream came out of her before she even noticed that she was screaming; it was an automatic, instinctual response and now it was too late to take it back.

People had rounded the corner and one man stepped forward, “whatta doin’ mister?”

“Hey, nothin’, just chattin’ to the little lady here,” and Richie backed away from Lilly. She could see a crowd forming, faces looked at her, concerned, wondering and puzzled.

The man speaking seemed to be in charge; he wore a long white apron, dirty, covered with food stains, but not scary. Lilly didn’t think he looked scary, but more worried about her.

She sat, mute, appealing to him with her eyes, but unable to say anything. The scream had come out of her and all sound, all words seemed to be trapped in her throat. She could not speak. Her hands rested on her lap; she was frozen. Except her eyes. Time seemed to have stopped for her, time, and feeling, and all emotion was dead, except the pleading in her eyes, for peace.

“I ‘tink you need to move along now. Leave this lady alone. Get your food and get on outta here. We don’t want no trouble,” said dirty apron man. He looked at Richie, who sized up the room, the crowd of onlookers, the situation, time of day, work to still be done, and seemed to think better of challenging anyone.

He turned and sneered at Lilly, “good to see ‘ya again, little lady,” and he walked away from her.

She relaxed in an instant, the danger gone, literally moving through the crowd and out of sight. Dirty apron man stepped forward and asked, “you okay, miss?”

Lilly looked up into the man’s face, so different from Richie’s, and whispered, “yes, sir, I’m okay. Just shook up a bit.”

“You talkin’ to someone on that there, phone before?” asked dirty apron man, kindly.

“Yes, sir, just talkin’ to my husband, tryin’ to make some plans to get home.” Lilly didn’t know what compelled her to lie and say Arms was her husband, but the word felt right in her heart and she didn’t regret telling this one fib. It was so much better than all the lies she’d told before and it made her feel good to say the word.

“Well, you best be callin’ him back, now. And then comes and gets ‘yer breakfast. We’ll make it fresh for ‘ya. We don’t like no trouble in here. I runs a tight ship,” and he turned to get back to his kitchen. The crowd dispersed, returning to their food, conversations, and their own lives.

Lilly sat alone again, looking at the pay phone in front of her. She took a few deep breaths, letting the air out of her lungs in long release. She was starting to feel calm, even mildly serene. The corner with the phone felt like a little shelter, made just for her. But now she wondered whether she should call Arms again. She had precious little money left; the nickel she used to make the call in the first place was a lot to her and she still had to pay for her breakfast. She decided that the call could wait. The kindness of dirty apron man wouldn’t last forever, she knew that. But for now, she would take advantage of the warmth in the café and the friendly support. She would be on her own soon enough, traveling on the freight trains home to Los Angeles.

#FAHNARtChallenge Day 17: Furniture

Chapter 11

After Death

Early morning, the Los Angeles morgue, November 17, 1954

Foil hadn’t been to bed. He hadn’t slept at all. He felt terrible, but promised the O’Briens that he would meet them at the morgue. He had a lot of questions, but those would come later. When he arrived, the O’Briens were waiting already. Mabel’s eyes were red from crying and she looked exhausted. James wasn’t in much better shape; he let Mabel lean against him, holding a strong arm around her so she wouldn’t slide to the floor. Both parents appeared fragile in their despair. Foil felt deeply for the couple and he was unsure how they would take seeing their daughter in the shape he had found her. At least it was the practice just to show the face of the deceased, but even that would be difficult for the parents.

Foil nodded a hello to them both and directed them inside. He hated the morgue; the smell always made his stomach turn. Even in the viewing area where they stood now, he caught the aroma of death and formaldehyde. He watched the O’Briens, but they didn’t seem aware of anything but the impending horror of seeing their daughter. They clutched each other and waited. Foil stood awkwardly to the side. He never quite knew where to stand or what to do in these moments. It had only been two days since he had seen the battered body of Lucy O’Brien in the train yard and he didn’t relish seeing her again.

They were all standing together in a little room with a large plate glass window in front of them; Foil felt claustrophobic. “Let me know when you’re ready,” he said gently to the couple. He knew they would never be ready.

The two parents stood for a moment and then James glanced at Foil and nodded. The time had come. Foil stepped up to the window and gestured to the attendant, who lifted the sheet and pulled it away from the face of the dead child. For a moment, there was complete silence. It was the silence of ages, of all the times of happiness and horror rolled into one and then Mabel began to slide to the floor and wail. It was not the sound that she had first made in Foil’s office, but the sounds of final acceptance at seeing Lucy, her bruised face blotchy and partially swollen. There was no outward beauty left; the parents faced what was done to Lucy and both of them recoiled.

James led Mabel to a chair and sat her down on it. Foil noticed that this piece of furniture, the only in the room, was worn from the sitting of so many who had to face the death of a loved one. He suddenly felt cold and shivered. He wanted to get away, flee, but he didn’t move. James stood over Mabel, as she sobbed, the tears running down his own cheeks, his hand on her shoulder. Two souls alone in the wilderness of pain. Foil could hardly bear it and there was nothing to say, nothing that would bring Lucy back.

It was James who spoke, looking at Foil out of steely blue eyes. “Get the bastard,” he said, simply, a low growl seeming to emanate from his whole body. Mabel continued to sob, her weeping coming out in a strangled sound as James spoke. “Get the bastard who did this, Mr. Finegan, or there’ll be hell to pay!”

“And that is all they have left,” thought Foil, “justice for their daughter.”

“Yes, sir,” said Foil. “I’m meeting with the boys about the case today and this is our number one priority right now. I promise you we’ll find who did this to Lucy; make sure he never walks the streets again.” His words sounded empty, but James O’Brien seemed satisfied and assured. He gently leaned over Mable and put his arms around her, lifting her and guiding her out of the room. Foil followed, feeling the weight of Lucy’s death upon him and the cruelty of the world.

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 18 & 19: Drinks & Cocktails and Out/Takes [I split the word]

Chapter 12

Arms Wakes Up

Arms’s office, mid-morning, November 18th

Arms was dreaming. He was standing with Lilly, decked out in his finest suit, she in a beautiful mauve ball gown. He was in a ballroom with her, which was full of light, tinkling glasses filled to the brim with champagne, music rising from a stage somewhere he couldn’t pinpoint. They were laughing together and happy; he was holding her close and looking into her eyes. He felt the warmth of their bodies touching. All around him were people he knew, but also those that he did not know. He didn’t see his friends, Foil and Hog. In a corner of the room, he watched as a man moved towards him. He didn’t recognize the man, but knew he was evil. The drinks were flowing, cocktails of all kinds, lights swirling around them and he was content, but he knew the man walking towards him was going to take that away from him, take Lilly away forever.

A door slammed and Arms shot awake; looking around his dark office, he was confused for a moment, but the memory of the dream, so much about happiness, but also danger, was with him still. He had fallen asleep for a few hours, sitting in his chair. His neck ached, he was stiff and felt hungover when he tried to move and stand up, though he wasn’t. He could hear Mildred puttering around, arriving for work, and singing a little tune to herself. Arms walked over to the blinds of the one window in his office, and pulled them up. Bright sunshine streamed in like a blaze of life. He quickly dropped them again and returned to his desk. He sank into his chair, switched on his desk lamp, and tried to remember the fading dream. He thought of Lilly; she had not called him back and he felt overwhelmed with unexplained emotions.

“I need to see the detective!” Arms heard these words, not asked politely but yelled down the hallway towards his office. He heard a desperation in the voice. It was a man’s. He wasn’t demanding, but pleading. “Please! My girl’s missin’, an I was’n told that I can get some help here!”

Arms rose and opened his office door. At the end of the hall, he saw a tall man, thin and gaunt in his face, but strong in stature and definitely willing Mildred to let him by. He wasn’t touching her or being threatening. He was begging.

“It’s okay, Ms. Flynn, let the man in,” said Arms calmly. He watched as Mildred stepped aside. The man came towards him in a rush and moved quickly into his office. He didn’t sit, but paced agitatedly, turning finally and looking Arms square in the eye. “It’s me daughter, sir. Gladys. Gladys Miller. She’s gone. I can’t find her nowhere. No one’s seen her since she got off work yesterday and she’s only 17. She got no mother. It’s just me to care for her, now. Her mother died last year,” and at this information, he finally sank into a chair, putting his head in his hands. He seemed defeated.

Arms walked to his own desk chair and sat down. He had not been privy to the details of Foil’s case, but he had heard the wailings of the mother the day before and knew something terrible had occurred. He had been working on several cases, then Lilly had called, shocking him into another state entirely. Now this man was bringing him back to reality, fast. He listened to the father go on in an anguished voice.

“She went out to work yester’ay morning. Didn’t takes any’ting wi’ her, but her usual ‘tings. Lunch pail, coat. She didn’t come home, sir. I gots no one else. Lost my wife and the little ones last year, like I said. Gladys she’s my only girl,” and here he broke down.

Arms always found it hard to see a grown man cry. That was the last vestige of dignity for a man, to let another man see him cry. But a father who has lost a child, well, he lives in another world entirely and Arms let the man weep in front of him and said nothing.

Finally, the man looked up. “Sorry, sir. It overtakes me. She’s all I got, you see,” and he stared at Arms out of bleary eyes. “I’m Harold Miller, Gladys’ father. I talked to the O’Briens, they’re neighbors of mine, you see. I ain’t heard what happened to Lucy, but I know she’s gone somewhere. They told me about this place, so I come along first ‘ting. The police, nah, they don’t care. My Gladys, she’s a good girl, I tells ‘ya, a good girl!” And he looked away for a moment trying to get his emotions under control. Then he continued. “My Gladys, she work as a sewin’ girl in the warehouse down in that big area of the city, you knows it, ‘m sure.”

Yes, Arms did know it and nodded in affirmation. There didn’t seem any need to ask the man questions, he was telling Arms everything. So far, he hadn’t spoken, hadn’t needed to talk at all, as Harold was explaining the whole situation. But he knew that he would have to talk to Foil that day. This couldn’t wait and he was sure that this girls’ disappearance had something to do with the woman wailing in Foil’s office the previous day.

He was beginning to say something when he heard the alley door open and Foil walk into the agency. He was talking to Mildred. His voice was louder than usual; Arms could tell that Foil was frustrated and angry and he didn’t care who knew it.

“Where’s Hog? And Arms? We gots to get on this case, now! A girl . . . well, she’s . . . dead.” Arms could hear the rage in Foil’s voice, but there was also despair and something akin to resignation. This was so unlike his friend, who usually kept his emotions in check. Arms thought something must be different with this particular case. And though he didn’t know who his friend was talking about – there were many dead girls out there in the city of Los Angeles - he knew that for Foil to be that angry, the case must be a terrible one. Arms was waking up to the world again, after the shock of Lilly’s call, to the responsibilities he had to others, and to his friends.

Arms took a quick glance at Mr. Miller, who seemed lost in another world, one of pain and anguish for his only child. He had his head in his hands again. He clearly had heard nothing. He thought it was best to take Mr. Miller’s statement and then consult with Foil and Hog before saying anything else. He didn’t know enough and he was wary of promising too much to a man in deep despair.

“Let me get all your information, Mr. Miller,” said Arms, drawing up some sheets of paper. Let’s start over a little more slowly, so I can get all the details correct. “A missing child,” and Arms stopped, as he saw the accusation in the man’s eyes. He started again, “your missing child is our top priority, of course,” Arms reassured him.

“I don’t gots much money, sir,” began Mr. Miller.

But Arms held up his hand. “Please don’t worry about that. I’ll see what I can do and then we can discuss those matters. What is more important right now is that you tell me as much as you can about your daughter.”

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 20: Plane

Original commissioned artwork by Anna Howram

Chapter 13

The Swine’s Detectives

Foil’s office, early afternoon, November 18th

Foil sat brooding in his office. He was grappling with his emotions, the blind rage he felt he could not control. He was typically a man of action; he preferred that to the emotional side of detective work, which he left to Hog and Arms. But this case was different. He knew it as soon as he met the O’Briens and saw their daughter lying half-naked at the train yard. In a detective’s career there might only ever be one or two cases that change the course of their thinking or the way they look at the world. For Foil, this was the second such case. Despite his extensive experience, he found himself going through the motions without an anchor. That is, he seemed to have no way to move forward without the nagging rage that dogged his every move and seemed to take over his usual logical thinking and actions.

He needed to talk to his friends, apprise them of the parameters of the case and what he had found in the garment district warehouse in Marvin Henshaw’s office. That hunch had surely paid off, but he wasn’t sure where to go next. Arms and Hog’s perspectives would be incredibly useful to him, their sense of pragmatism and balance would help him make better decisions, but he needed to tame his rage first, push it away, compartmentalize. As he sat in his office, he was trying to do just that, but a knock at the door brought him out of himself.

“Yeah?” he barked, “what is it?” He couldn’t keep the hardness out of his voice and as Mildred cautiously opened the door, he felt the rage well up inside of him, once again.

“Mr. Miller has returned, sir, as Detective McKenna asked him to, with the photograph of his daughter who is missing. I thought you would like to see it, sir,” and Mildred handed Foil a picture of a young girl in what looked like a confirmation dress. It was not in color, as Lucy’s had been, but in black and white. Still, it was clear that the girl was pretty and she looked very young. “When was this taken, did the father say?” he asked Mildred, more gently this time.

“Yes, sir, when she was about 12 or 13. Mr. Miller was rather vague about her age here, his emotions getting the best of him, sir. I’m sure you can understand.”

Instead of responding to this comment, Foil said harshly, “get the boys in here, Mildred! We gots to get on with this case!” Again, his voice was heavy with anger, an emotion that he was struggling to keep in check, even with soft spoken Mildred.

“Yes sir,” she said, calmly and left the room. She had never seen Foil like this before and it worried her. He was typically such a level-headed man, but not today, not with this case, in particular. Something was wrong, she was sure of it, but she kept her worries to herself.

Foil knew that ever since he had rescued Alice in Warehouse 1 in one of their dangerous first cases, he had changed, but he wasn’t sure if it was for the better or not. After that difficult experience trying to protect Alice, while at the same time dying from a gunshot wound, he was touched by a softness in his outlook on life that surprised him. Alice had become incredibly important to him, more so than anyone besides his family and two friends, Hog and Arms. He’d had other cases since then dealing with similar missing persons and deaths, but Alice remained in his heart. Their closeness had changed him and now he had little tolerance for evil perpetuated towards women. These girls, the same age as Alice had been, in their innocence and helplessness, affected him deeply and he found himself raging at a world that allowed someone to get away with such evil actions.

The minutes ticked on in the day, as he sat in his office and thought about Alice, Lucy, and Gladys, and tried to quell his rage, which did nothing but hamper him in his progression in the case.

Foil’s office, late afternoon, November 18th

“Death. It never gets easier,” said Foil, an undertone of anger in his voice. He paused and then said, more calmly, “the parents.”

This was enough for Hog, he understood. “The morgue; it’s a nightmare goin’ there.”

The two men were sitting in Foil’s office waiting for Arms to show. The photograph of Gladys Miller sat before Foil and now he handed it to Hog. “This is the latest missin’ girl, who you’ve already been lookin’ for. Any luck?”

Hog took the picture and looked at it, sweeping his eyes over the pretty face and noting the simple dress of the girl. This would have been an important day for her, as she sat to be photographed. Hog hoped that he would turn up good news for the father soon enough, but as of yet, his inquiries had been fruitless. “No. Nothin’,” he said to Foil. "No one has seen the girl since she left work two day’s previous, at the usual time. No one saw her leave with anyone either. No trace of her, but I knows there’s always somethin’ left behind, just need the clue to find her. Just need one clue . . .” and his voice trailed off.

After a few moments, he said, “she’s young, here. Much younger than now, right? Maybe 13 or so. She wouldn’t have been workin’ then. Maybe she’d been in school.” He seemed to be thinking out loud more than talking to Foil.

There was a sense of gloom that hung over the Swine’s agency after Harold Miller dropped off his daughter’s photograph; both Foil and Hog seemed to know that what lay on the horizon for Gladys Miller wasn’t good.

“Where the fuck is Arms?” Foil barked, suddenly, showing his irritation.

“He’ll be here,” said Hog, looking at his friend. He’s got more cases than this one, we all do.”

But this piece of information didn’t seem to ease Foil’s dark mood. Just then his office door opened and Arms came in looking gloomy, himself. He didn’t say anything, but sat down, acknowledging the other two men.

“’Bout time you showed up! We gots work to do on this case!” and Foil glared at Arms, the rage bubbling up like an unchecked fire in his heart.

“Hey, Foil, back off. I gots to talk to other clients, same as you two. I’m here, aren’t I?” and Arms eyed his friend with a dangerous look. “I talked to Harold Miller, so I knows what’s goin’ on with his daughter, but fill me in on the rest and we’ll work on this together.”

Foil seemed to want to respond to Arms’s first challenge, but he checked himself and instead began telling the two detectives about his trip back down to the garment district, finding the locked drawers, and the discovery of the O’Briens’ passports.

When he had finished, Arms whistled and said, “that was a dangerous move on your part, Foily, boy! Quite dangerous,” and he sat back, suitably impressed with his friend’s risk taking.

“Good thing they don’t care much for security down in that part of town or you’d a been a goner,” said Hog, laughing good naturedly. “But whadya think? Blackmail, some kind of bribery of the parents for access to Lucy and other girls? We talkin’ pimp material here, or some dirty, sleezy take? Farmin’ girls out? We ‘tink this Marvin Henshaw bloke is out for money? Or sex?”

“Probably both,” said Foil. “But we got no proof. The passports aren’t enough. I ‘tink we need to tail this guy, check his movements, where does he go? What does he do with his time? He’s our closest connection to these girls . . . we got nothin’ else,” and here he sounded mildly defeated.

Arms agreed. “We need to nail him doing somethin’ illegal, or we gots nothin’ to go on. Can’t call in the police for a bunch of passports sittin’ on a man’s desk. I say we tail him tonight and see what we can find out. How ‘bout you and me, Foil? A stakeout?”

“Yeah, I’m in,” said Foil, relieved to be moving forward on the case with his friends.

“I gots more inquiries ‘bout this Gladys girl,” said Hog, “and now I gots a picture, I might be able to turn up somethin’ good,” but he didn’t sound hopeful. Hog knew that the first few hours of someone being missing were the most critical, but in his line of work, he always pursued the person until all possible leads were exhausted.

Outside of Marvin Henshaw’s home, late evening into the night, November 18th

Foil sat in Arms’s black Corvette, a good car for a stakeout as it seamlessly blended into the darkness around them. They were sitting outside of Marvin Henshaw’s home. Initially, they had gone to the warehouse and were very lucky to see the man himself get into his own car and drive away. They followed, tailing him first to a local grocery store and then to a gas station and finally to his own home on the outskirts of a little neighborhood of cheap rental houses. They had been sitting for about two hours watching the house where Henshaw had entered. Neither detective knew how long the stakeout would last, but they were both in it for the night.

Foil was grateful to be sitting with his friend and doing something productive for a change. The rage he felt earlier in his office was under control for the moment, but he didn’t know how long that would last. Arms was a good influence on him, solid, trustworthy, and an excellent right-hand man; his friend offered him the anchor he needed at the moment to think more clearly about the case. They discussed it as they sat waiting and watching to see if Henshaw would go out that night.

“This Henshaw bloke, you think he’s our killer?” Arms asked Foil, as he drank from his flask.

“Not sure. He’s a wily fucker, but he’s stayed off our radar good enough,” responded Foil. “When Hog and I went to see him, we knew somethin’ was up. He had a shifty, lascivious eye and wouldn’t give us no address for Gladys Miller. The excuse? We weren’t police. Well, we damn sure know that he ain’t ever helped no police officer. He’s tied to the girls; he’s their fuckin’ boss, but I can’t figure out what he’s holdin’ over the parents. Must be somethin’ bad. Maybe they’re here illegally, who knows? But Lucy . . . her body. If you had seen her, you would know what I mean,” and Foil’s voice trailed off, as he remembered the brutally beaten girl at his feet in the train yard. He felt the rage returning and said, “give me some of that, will ‘ya McKenna?”

Drinking from the flask, he let the whiskey’s fire wash over him and tried to push the image of Lucy’s nakedness out of his mind. He had spoken enough for the moment and he fell silent for a time, as they watched and waited.

Another hour passed and the darkness around them was deepening to the point of little sight, except what they could see under the streetlamps that dotted the road. There was no movement at all at Henshaw’s place. Then Arms spoke and said, “I heard from Lilly. She called me out of the blue.”

He didn’t look at Foil when he said this, didn’t want to see his friend’s surprise or even know what he thought. But he needed to talk about the girl he loved to someone and it might as well be his friend.

“What’d she say?” asked Foil, sounding nonchalant and relaxed. Lilly had been gone for months and Foil knew nothing about their final parting. Arms was silent on the subject of this strange woman he had been trapped with for so much time. Foil had never known what to make of her and certainly hadn’t pushed Arms on the subject, but assumed that the connection was simply lost between them, eventually, and that was why Lilly disappeared. But here was his friend bringing her up again.

“She said she was comin’ home to LA,” was Arms’s simple answer. “It’s just that I don’t know where she been, Foil. And she was cryin’. Cryin’ on the phone, saying she never should have left. I think she’s in trouble, but too far away to help. I don’t know what to do,” and he took another swig of whiskey. The flask was almost empty, but he still held it in his hands almost like a talisman against feeling too much in the moment. “I feel like she’s unreachable, on another plane or planet, and I can’t do nothin’ to help her, nothin’ at all.”

Foil looked at his friend carefully, but couldn’t see much of him in the darkness and shadows from inside the car. He wasn’t sure what to say. Arms was the romantic, not him. He couldn’t commit to women, didn’t know how. It was enough that Alice sat in his heart, but that was all about protecting and keeping her safe. He didn’t know enough about what it meant to love a woman so deeply that you never wanted to let her go or disappear. He felt he should say something, but didn’t. And then he was saved from saying anything at all because at that moment both men watched as Henshaw came out of his house wearing a flashy new suit and carrying a heavy black leather bag. He got into his car and drove off at a fairly rapid pace.

Arms snapped to alert as soon as he saw Henshaw was on the move and glided along behind him at a decent distance, making sure to stay at least two car lengths away. The problem for both detectives was that the roads were empty and it would have been fairly easy for Henshaw to spot their car in the night. But perhaps Henshaw was too keen on where he was going to notice anything because he kept on the straight and narrow and arrived at his destination without so much as a pause in his driving or seemingly trying to lose the car that tailed him.

Foil and Arms were well familiar with the brothel that Henshaw parked in front of, having dealt with the criminal underclass in a variety of cases that involved rescuing girls trying to escape their pimps and johns. The woman who ran the establishment was keen on keeping an outward appearance of respectability and often said she ran a boarding house, but the detectives knew this was a front for other illegal activity, including running drugs and selling homemade moonshine. They watched as Henshaw rang the bell and was admitted. They didn’t see who let him in, but assumed it was the madame herself. The hour was late, almost midnight, and any man turning up at her door at this time was there for nothing good.

“Should we rush him?” Foil asked Arms as they parked and sat, once again, in the darkness.

“Nah, let’s wait him out. See what he does. You in it for the night, right? We could be here a whiles,” said Arms.

“Yeah, sure thing,” Foil said, nodding. Neither man mentioned the previous conversation about Lilly or felt the need to return to that subject. The night had turned towards the latest hours, the time just before the dawn when men rise to work. Both Foil and Arms were tired, but determined. They needed to know what Henshaw was up to before they abandoned their stakeout and returned to the detective agency where they had planned to meet Hog and decide how to proceed. A lot was riding on this stakeout and what they could pin on Henshaw and his nightly movements.

“Wonder what he had in that black bag. It looked heavy,” Foil said. “Drugs? Money? More passports? Maybe the madame is in on it too. I wouldn’t put it past the squirrely shrew; there ain’t nothin’ good about her, inside or out, she’s only got greed in her heart. Don’t care nothin’ for nobody, specially not them girls she owns.”

Arms could hear the low, growling anger in Foil’s tone as he spoke and wondered at his friend’s response, but didn’t question it. A man’s anger about something was best left alone. Arms’s motto was, “don’t poke the devil with a stick, unless you want him to send you straight to hell.”

It wasn’t until the dawn was breaking and a few birds could be heard chirping that Henshaw finally emerged from the brothel, but without the heavy black, leather bag. He got into his car without looking around him and drove off in the direction of his own home again. Foil and Arms were bleary eyed and exhausted by this time, but they couldn’t afford to let Henshaw out of their sight. They watched him go and once again drove behind him, leaving a suitable length between the two cars. It was easier now not to be spotted, as the world was waking up and more people were on the roads. But it was also easier to lose the man they had so much pinned on for this troubling case.

When Henshaw pulled up outside his home, Foil and Arms parked about a half a block away to avoid attention, but close enough to see Henshaw’s movements. The man never even bothered to look anywhere but in front of him, as he got out of his car and walked up to his house. He seemed to stagger, fumbling with the keys, and practically falling inside, slamming the door shut behind him. He appeared either too exhausted to function or very drunk; either way, the detectives suspected that he wouldn’t make it into work that day.

“What now?” said Arms to Foil, rubbing his head in a bid to rid himself of the headache that had set in during the night. “I say snatch a few hours of sleep at the office, meet Hog as he gets in, and head over to the garment district before anyone knows what’s goin’ on. Get there early enough and we might have a chance to surprise that Mrs. Harding, you mentioned, get some information out of her before Henshaw suspects anything.”

“Yeah,” said Foil, “we gots to start pullin’ this case together. Too many loose ends. Let’s get back to the agency. But we gots to talk to that madame; my money’s on her. That black bag; she gots it now and we need it. It’s a clue and a big one. And Henshaw. He’s dirty, for sure. The passports, thems a small cog in a bigger wheel of crime. And then there’s Lucy and her parents,” and Foil’s voice darkened with a gritty edge for the rage was surfacing again and he was having a hard time keeping it contained.

“Let’s get outta here,” said Arms simply, starting the car and driving back to the Swine’s agency. The early morning air was icy when they finally got out of the car and stretched their aching bodies. Stakeout’s took it out of a man. Just as they entered the building through the back alleyway door, they both heard a phone ringing. The sound was coming from Foil’s office. He moved quickly to pick up the phone, the voice on the other end sounded gruff. The information was relayed simply and Foil put down the receiver. He stood for one moment, his mind racing, and the rage at boiling point. Then he turned abruptly and headed out of the office, yelling back over his shoulder to Arms the cryptic message, “gots to run out. . . the train yard, again.”

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 21 & 22: Diversity & Funny

Chapter 14

It’s Murder

Very early morning, Taylor Yard, November 19th

Foil was standing over the body of a dead girl in Taylor Yard. He felt like he was in a nightmare. The girl’s body had all the hallmarks of Lucy’s but the hair was of a different color, a striking red. Even as he walked towards the body that morning, he had seen the girl’s hair. She, too, was naked from the waist up and she was also young, like Lucy. Arthur Stone stood with him, clearly nervous and worried.

“Had to call you, detective. No other way ‘round it. The boys found her early this morning, ‘bout 4am. I said I knew who to call. Don’t want no trouble. But ‘tink you and I both know somethin’ evil’s out there walkin’ ‘round. One girl. Now two. Shit,” and Stone stopped talking, taking a deep drag on the cigarette he held in his hand. This was his second one in less than a minute.

Foil looked at him and noticed the haggard lines around his eyes and mouth. Murders take a toll on a man, even one who is already stepping over the line of the law. But Foil knew there was a lot between illegal gambling and murdering young girls. Stone presented hard, but Foil felt he was a weak man and afraid. Probably had his own family somewhere, but Foil didn’t ask. He didn’t want to know. He had enough on his plate with the O’Briens and now another dead girl. Yet, as much as he found Stone to be an unpleasant man, he was grateful to be called. He thought that this girl at his feet was probably Gladys Miller. The red hair was a tip off, her father’s own fiery mop a testament to the kinship. Plus, Hog hadn’t been able to track her down, though he had been on the hunt since their meeting with Henshaw three days before.

“Why here?” he asked, as much to Stone as to himself.

“It’s pretty dead at night,” Stone said, matter-of-factly. “Dark, you know. Not too many men workin’. Most trains runnin’ are long distance ones. Worked on and then sent on their way. Anybody could come here. There ain’t no fences or nothin’ like that. We only gots one security guard, Henry Black, and sometimes we find him sleepin’ on the job! People jump trains, get in the boxcars, sleep at night. He don’t look out for no murderers.” Stone felt this explanation was enough, but Foil was dissatisfied.

“Why here?” he thought again. “Why dump her here?” He looked, keenly, around him. Searched the ground for any signs of struggle, anything out of place, but everything was surprisingly clean. The gravel beneath the girl had not been disturbed. It was as if she was placed there purposely, but dropped, like Lucy; her limbs askew. This time, however, he noticed that they looked placed in a certain way, as if the girl’s death had been staged purposefully.

Somewhere in the distance he heard the cry of a bird and looked up. This time the sky was clear, the morning sun shining, easing the cool air around them. Taylor Yard was a place for workmen, far out of town. Ugly, barren, mechanical, hard. He looked down at the girl on the ground. Even in death, he could tell she was soft, vulnerable, and innocent. Crouching down, like he’d done with Lucy, he examined the body more closely. The same tell-tale bruises were on the skin of her upper arms, throat, face. She’d been hit and held down. Foil suspected rape, again. There was a pattern, clear, set out for him, like a story; the girl’s eyes were open and he reached out and closed them. The fiery hair the most alive part of her, the curls dancing in the breeze, as if she was just lying there, resting.

He would call the police again. He’d given up on George helping him for the time being. He’d talked to him briefly about the case, but his friend was too busy to take on much more. There had recently been a spate of bad burglaries in the city; rich people’s houses broken into. They had money and could demand police protection and police time. The murder of these girls, their families, well, they had very little, almost nothing in fact. Their lives didn’t always register on the police wavelength. Yet, they were definitely victims and needed help, protection, just as much as the wealthy did, but perhaps even more.

Their neighborhoods reflected the ethnic and religious diversity of the city, the heart of what Los Angeles was all about in the mid 1950’s, but it was still the white, wealthy citizens who received the most care from city officials, especially the police commissioner who made it a point to curry favor with the rich and famous. Arms and his friends set out to change these disparities and often took cases pro bono, if they believed that the person or persons deserved more. Foil felt that this was a case where almost no payment was needed. His job was to get justice for the families; to find the murderer and send him to prison for life. It would be up to a judge and jury to decide whether the man got the death penalty. And Foil knew in his heart that this was a man committing these brutal crimes.

Funny this happenin’ here, like you said,” Arthur Stone suddenly remarked, breaking into Foil’s thoughtful revery. “Well, not funny in that sense of course,” said Stone more seriously and then he sighed. “I ain’t got no answers, for ‘ya detective. This is surely beyond Henry’s pay grade and all. He just as flummoxed as the rest of us; don’t need the publicity, I’m sure you know.” Foil knew that Stone was just thinking about himself, not the rest of his fellow workers. Stone didn’t want the police on his tail or rumbling his side line gambling scene.

“Let’s go,” said Foil, turning towards Stone’s railyard hut. “Fuckin’ nightmare, this.” The rage was there again, rising up like before. But he had a lot more to go on now than he previously had with Lucy. Harold Miller had offered more information, more clues and Foil wondered whether Miller’s passport had been in that pile with the O’Brien parents. He hadn’t looked closely enough at the other names. “We’ll get him!” he thought, “we’ll get that fucker, Henshaw and string him up. I know it’s him, just gotta prove it.”

#FAHnArtChallenge Day 23: Generations

Chapter 15

Secrets of Healing

Late afternoon, November 19th

Foil stood in his family’s kitchen, looking out at the large swath of garden. His eyes wandered over the plot of land; the sky was a crisp, clean blue, and the sun shone brightly. Life for his parents was no different than when he was there last, a little over a week ago. He, on the other hand, had changed considerably. Two brutal deaths of innocent girls confronted him with a complicated case and he felt strangely out of his depth, despite having Arms and Hog involved. His father, as usual, was bending over a large plant, tending it with care. Generations of plants had thrived over the years, each season producing more than before, it was a beautiful sight to behold, but it was all lost on Foil at the moment. Foil’s mother, June, was talking to him, jubilant in her tone because her son had surprised them with another rare visit.

“Twice in a week Seán!” She talked animatedly to her son, smiling broadly and working consistently with her hands, but not looking down at all, as she kneaded the bread dough in front of her. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you, dear, but we usually don’t see you for months! What brings you here today?” she asked him, as he stood with his back to her.

He didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure. He could hardly afford the time, but he found himself driving towards his parents’ house after leaving Taylor Yard and the police behind, as the coroner picked up yet another girl’s body. Without even the consciousness that he was doing it, he drove, and by the time he realized he was there, he felt he could not turn around and leave. He stood still, silently staring out the window. He didn’t feel he could even talk, utter a word, or express himself.

His mother noticed his silence and said, tentatively, “Seán?” Her voice was warm with love. She noticed that he seemed removed from her, in some faraway place that she could not reach. She waited. She understood her son so well, probably better than her two older sons. They had been easy to raise. John and Robert had chosen career paths early in life and had followed those paths to a tee. Her youngest son had wavered and wandered. Only when he went to war, did she feel he had made a strong life choice, but when he came home, he was different. Lost somehow, but present at the same time. Those first weeks of his arrival back from France were difficult, but then he got on with some things, not with others. Yet, he never quite settled, never seemed at ease. That is until he met his friends, Seán and Conor, and joined the Swine’s detective agency.

She tried again. “Seán, dear, is everything alright?” She watched him closely and waited. He had grown into a handsome young man and she was proud of him and the life that he had chosen. He seemed settled now, or at least enough for her liking. But she worried all the same; most mothers do. The silence in the kitchen lay between them, though she sensed he wanted to talk, but didn’t know how to begin. She waited some more. He would respond to her in his own time, she believed.

And then without warning Foil felt hot tears well up in his eyes. He let them roll down his cheeks, unchecked. This sudden rush of emotion shocked him, but it didn’t shame him. He almost felt like a small boy, again, going to his mother for comfort and care. And he knew that at any other time in his life or with any other person, including his father, he would not have allowed himself to feel this much pain, anguish, and heartbreak. The feelings came in a wave and washed over him like a storm. He was lashed to the spot where he stood, struggling to contain himself. Only in this secret moment between son and mother, would Foil allow himself such emotional vulnerability. But, still, he did not turn towards her. He couldn’t seem to move.

And then he felt her come up behind him and wrap her arms around his body. And it was as if she was filling him up with her mother’s love, pouring all her strength, love and light into him so that he, too, could stand strong. He let the tears fall, let himself be held, and felt the rage, that all-consuming emotion that had weighed him down and crippled his ability to move forward with this incredibly important case, dissipate and almost disappear from his heart. His mother stayed, holding him, until she felt his body relax.

Then she stepped away from him and he composed himself. When he finally turned towards her and smiled, it was not necessary for either of them to speak about the moment.

“Sit down, Seán, and have a cup of tea. Stay for lunch?” she sounded hopeful.

“No, Ma. I’ve got to go. I just stopped by to say hi and check up on you and Dad,” the little lie so convenient between mother and son, for they both knew their exchange, their moment together had been more than that, but it would stay between them.

“Okay, then take some pie. I baked it fresh today. Apple. Your favorite,” and she looked at him with concerned eyes, scanning his face, the worry lines, the strain and stress, she saw it all and wondered at her son’s moment of vulnerability. It was so unlike him. But he had come to her, asked her for help in his own way, and she had given him what he needed. This knowledge gave her comfort and helped her push the worry she had for Seán, away, as she busied herself with the parcel that she would send along with him.

At the door, he turned suddenly and hugged her. He didn’t know he would and she didn’t expect it, but she gripped him tightly and gave him a good squeeze, kissing him on the cheek. As he let go, he looked at her briefly and she could see a new light in his eyes, one that suggested determination and confidence. She had done her part, now she was sending her boy out into the world again, sure of his success. He smiled at her once more, taking his food parcel and leaving with a new sense of peace in his heart.

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